Reports of Meetings at Chelmsford


12th December 2020
Pantomime and Music Hall Through the Ages
by Alan Ruston
This is a summary of a talk given via Zoom to a world-wide audience.

Our calendar of 2020 came to a close in a very different way from past years, in that all our meetings from April onwards have been held via the technology of the internet and Zoom Video communication.
In December, Alan Ruston gave us a well-illustrated talk on the history of Pantomime and Music Hall through the ages. It was interesting to learn about the origins of pantomime and the role reversal of boys as girls and girls as boys, as well as the later introduction of 'The Dame'.
The original characters were based on the Italian Pierrot and Harlequin characters, with the addition of the Jester, all masked and in gaudy costumes, the threat of evil forever present and waiting to be triumphed over by good. How many of us realise that 'evil always enters stage left, or sinister, while good always enters stage right, or recto'.
There was always a signature chase sequence, complete with slapstick and comedic music. The term 'slapstick' comes from the actor using a divided stick which he would 'slap' together as a cue for the audience to react, although originally he would use the stick to knock down stage screens to change the scenery! Until 1843 theatre regulations restricted the use of the spoken word, hence 'panto' meaning All, and 'MIME'. Therefore, performances were wholly visual, actions exaggerated and masks used to show character. At the start of the 19th century audiences were stunned and shocked to see a speaking Harlequin!
Alan informed us that there are not many actual records of actors available apart from in some county archives. The National Archives has probably the best collection of hand-bills and theatre programmes from the 1870's, as well as 'the Era' theatrical newspapers, a forerunner of 'The Stage'. More modern (20th century) programmes are usually kept in individual theatres if they have their own archives. Bristol and Kent Universities also have digitised information. The website has information as well.
The art of performance was an unacceptable profession in the past, so it is very difficult to find any census information where the person admitted to being an 'actor' or 'performer', unless they were with a circus for example.

Alan has his own published book (2015 2nd edition) entitled 'My Ancestor Worked in the Theatre' which would be a likely source of information for anyone searching for a theatrical ancestor.
Summarised by Helen Matten (ESFH 31242)
17th October 2020 Morning session
Exploring Your Local History. Beginning your own local history research and some fascinating tales from Essex history
by Margaret Mills
This is a summary of a talk given via Zoom to a world-wide audience.

This was not quite the talk I expected from the description but was entitled 'My Search for Patrick Bronte experience in Essex'. Margaret described how Patrick having been born in Ireland, moved to England in 1802 to study theology at St John's College, Cambridge and received his BA degree in 1806. He was then appointed curate at Wethersfield, where he was ordained a Deacon of the Church of England in 1806, and into the priesthood in 1807. He was the father of the writers Charlotte, Emily and Ann Bronte and one son called Branwell who was doted on by his sisters according to some texts.

Wethersfield which has not altered much over the years and if Patrick Bronte came back today, he would still recognise it and Margaret showed us slides to prove this. In the early 19th century 80% of the population was employed in agricultural work and there was also a Brewery in Wethersfield as well as a workhouse. Using slides showing the inside and outside of St Mary Magdalene Margaret told us that the church was mainly 12th to 15th century but there had been a programme of renovation in 1750. It has a stained-glass window dating from the 14th century - it is well worth a visit.

Patrick Bronte lodged in St George's House, just opposite the Church, the home of Miss Mildred Davy. Miss Davy's niece, Mary Burder was also lodging there, and they formed a romantic attachment which was disapproved of by her father and resulted in Mary moving away.

During his time at Wethersfield there was a Typhoid outbreak and Margaret explained how busy he would have been caring for the community, apparently, he was immensely popular in the area.

Margaret did some of her research at Essex Record Office and was also helped by the Wethersfield Local History Group who are immensely proud of the village link to the Brontes. The society is based in the Village Hall and can be contacted at

Patrick left Wethersfield in 1809.

Whilst not the talk I expected, I found it particularly useful to me as this is where my ancestors came from.
Summarised by Meryl Rawlings (ESFH 6639)
17th October 2020 Afternoon session
Evacuation in WW2
by Mike Brown
This is a summary of a talk given via Zoom to a world-wide audience.

Mike commenced the talk by explaining that it had become obvious from the Great War and Spanish Civil War that evacuation would be needed in the event of another war and before war was declared a detailed evacuation plan had been drawn up, the Country being split into three areas:
1. Those likely to be bombed.
2. Those unlikely to be bombed
3. Grey areas.

A copy of the London Evacuation Plan is at the London Metropolitan Archives.

The main categories for evacuation were children under school age with their mothers and school children with their schools, although arrangements were also made for pregnant ladies, the sick and the insane. A survey in the reception areas had been carried out by the Women's Voluntary Service (WVS) which found that there was more accommodation available than was required.

The first evacuation took place on 1st, 2nd and 3rd September in 1939 and every school were told where they were going, which station to report to and what time to arrive. To avoid children getting lost each child wore a label with their name, school, and school number on and the teachers carried a placard with the school name and number on. Special trains were laid on for the evacuation but when the evacuees arrived at the terminal stations, such as Kings Cross, things started to go wrong. Stations became very crowded, with some groups arriving late and others early. Station Masters, wishing to keep their stations moving for their every-day commuters, put the first groups to arrive on the first train, which resulted in evacuees turning up at the wrong destinations, for example, a village expecting 12- to 14-year-old children, received pregnant ladies.

Evacuation also took place by bus, and children from East Ham were evacuated by a Thames steamer to the coastal towns such as Clacton. Holiday camps were also used to house evacuees.

Mike explained that the children often found the accents of their new homes hard to understand and food at the time was very regional, one lady from Somerset told him how they laid on a reception tea of local specialities such as pasties and scones with clotted cream only to be told "Don't want that, want chips". People in the countryside were also horrified that some of the children from the East End tenements, where five or more families had to share a toilet, would lay newspaper in a corner crouch down to do their business, wrap it up in a neat parcel and place it in the dustbin. The poverty of some of the children was a great shock to their hosts.

Around 40,000, mainly middle-class children of secondary school age, were evacuated overseas but this stopped after two ships were torpedoed killing 87 children. (In the December 2019 edition of The Essex Historian an article was published detailing the surnames of Essex children evacuated to Australia, New Zealand, Canada and South Africa).

Some private evacuation was also arranged, with people moving in with relatives living in the countryside and some private and grammar schools arranging their own evacuation.

In 1939 a lot of families brought their children home for Christmas as there had been no bombing of London at that time and many children never went back. With the bombing of coastal towns and other unexpected areas, the children were moved yet again - one man told Mike he had been moved 12 times.

At the end of the War, the evacuees returned home as young adults, not the children the parents were expecting, with many having developed regional accents together with a love of the countryside. Probably the greatest shock was felt by those returning from New York, where both food and sweets had been plentiful, to a country still under rationing.

An excellent, professionally researched talk.
Summarised by Meryl Rawlings (ESFH 6639)
February 2020 Morning session
Overseas Migrants in Harwich in the 15th and 16th centuries
by Dr Chris Thornton
Chris began his lecture by explaining how he had studied the residents from overseas or 'aliens' living in the port of Harwich in Tudor times (1485-1603). His opening remarks included the clarification of the meaning of the word 'alien' in those days. It was defined as a person from another country as opposed to a 'foreigner' which was thought of as a person from another part of the UK. Harwich, because of its natural location as a safe haven on the East Anglian coastline, and the close proximity to the continent of Europe, was a trading port in Roman times and was a naval port from the mid 1600's until 1829. Consequently it was a prime location for people from overseas to settle and carry out their trades. He then gave us a brief overview of the history of Harwich up until the end of the sixteenth century.

Chris went on to remind us of the difficulties that arise when dealing with the interpretation of surnames located in mediaeval documents. Historically the country of origin of the person often formed their surname. He cited examples including John Frencheman 1440, Peter Ducheman 1404, John Ducheman 1470, Huntere Flemyng 1440. In addition he specified the occupations pursued by aliens in Harwich including tailors, hosiers, cordwainers, servants, shipmen etc. Some alien masters, like John Peers, (circa 1484) employed other aliens.

He made us aware of an informative website created by the Arts and Humanities Research Council project between 2012 and 2015 - where a searchable database can be found containing details of 64,000 immigrants to England from 1330 until 1550. They are people known to have migrated to England during the period of the Hundred Year's War, the Black Death, the Wars of the Roses and the Reformation. The information within the database was drawn from published and unpublished records, taxation assessments, letters of denization (a document like a certificate of citizenship today) and alien subsidy returns.

Under the Advanced Search facility of the above-mentioned website I found details of 1294 Essex aliens. For example, John Acreman, servant to Robert Lambe, residence Chelmsford, (1440); John Alard, servant to Robert Glasyner of Colchester, (1484); Nicholas Adamson, tailor in Harwich, (1440); Satius Albek, residence Waltham Cross, (1436) etc.

Chris then talked us through how medieval laws had shaped the behaviour (often in the form of restrictions) of individuals from overseas. Towards the end of the 100 Years' War, when the UK economy was not doing very well, a law was implemented which meant aliens had to reside with an English host. The Treaty of Arras in 1435, the loss of Normandy in 1449-1500, plus further losses of English territories in France in 1453, lead to hostilities towards aliens.

Finally, quoting from the manorial documents of Harwich and Dovercourt (ERO ref D/B 4/38/1014), he provided us with evidence of court cases where Harwich citizens, like John Clayson and John Tymberman (1446), had been prosecuted for not complying with the laws regarding aliens.

A well-illustrated and thought-provoking lecture.
Colleen Devenish (ESFH 6279)
February 2020 Afternoon session
Come Dine with Your Ancestor
by Helen Matten
It is difficult to write a branch report when the speaker has given so much information in their talk that it is hard to decide what to include in this small space. This was the case with Helen Matten's talk, which was superbly illustrated, however by the end I felt exhausted by the sheer amount of information imparted by her.

The following is a selection of a few of the topics presented during her lecture on the history and cultural changes of the English attitude towards food in Georgian times. The Georgian period covers the years 1714 to circa 1830-37 and the Regency era (1811-1820) is a sub period when the Prince of Wales was regent during the illness of his father George III.

During the Georgian period many new kinds of foods were imported from the English colonies including potatoes, sugar, coffee and tea and, as the UK farming methods improved, more grain, meat, milk and butter were produced resulting in cheaper prices for these commodities. The aristocracy ate very well. The swelling numbers of the middle classes, such as lawyers and farmers, liked huge meals of simple, plain fare, enjoying roast and boiled pies and puddings. Whilst the poor depended increasingly on bread and potatoes, the wealthy were enjoying macaroni from Italy, curry, pilau rice and mango pickle from India and growing exotic fruits in their hothouses.

France dominated the food and drink culture in the eighteenth century and many on the 'Grand Tour' heard tales of a Parisian bouillon seller, known as Boulanger. In 1765, he is credited as one of the first to advertise an eating place that we would today recognise as a restaurant, and so dining out in public became accepted.

In London, Rules, a restaurant opened in 1798 by Thomas Rule, is still in existence today. When it began their Georgian customers would have expected breakfast at 10.00am, lunch at 1pm (2-4 courses) and dinner in the evening which was a light supper.

Throughout the 1700's booksellers churned out popular recipe books linked to the work of the French chiefs who created sumptuous tables for the rich. In 1747 Hannah Glasse was the first English woman to publish a cookery book. Entitled The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, it included recipes for Yorkshire pudding (the first time it was written down) and Treacle-water (a compound cordial prepared in different ways from a variety of ingredients). It was one of the first cookbooks written in a simple style so that anyone, regardless of class, could cook. This book was directed at servants rather than the mistresses of houses and is still available today.

Other recipe book authors of the period included Elizabeth Raffald (1733-1789) and Maria Rundell (1745-1828). Famous food writers of the time included the English man William Kitchiner (1755-1827) and Alexis Benoit Soyer (1810-1858) a French chef and writer on kitchen skills. Also active during the Regency Period was Eliza Acton (1799-1859) who publicised the idea of listing recipe ingredients and giving suggested cooking times for each recipe, a practice we still follow today.
Colleen Devenish (ESFH 6279)
January 2020 Morning session
Essex Parish Council Records
by Ted Woodgate
Ted began his lecture by explaining that the core of his presentation was an Excel spreadsheet containing hundreds of names of councillors elected at the first parish council elections in Essex in 1894.

The data was gathered from local newspapers dated December 1894 - hence it is a snapshot in time. The information is divided into 7 groups or constituencies each containing parishes with details of the name of the parish councillor elected, their occupation, the number of councillors elected, if there was a formal secret ballot carried out or voting was just by a show of hands etc. He also recorded if there was the existence of a non-conformist church/chapel in the area with details of the specific denomination. Carrying out the original research he found that there were approximately 14 parishes where the press had failed to report the results of the elections.

He compiled the data in the mid-1990s when he studied at the University of Essex under the guidance of the renowned Essex historian, Arthur Brown. ESFH members will have the privilege of accessing this valuable social data later this year as Ted has offered the information from his unique study to ESFH for future use. I am lucky enough to be working on an introduction to the project and hope to have it completed in a few weeks so that your Executive Committee will decide how the data may be made accessible to members.

In addition to explaining how the data was formatted Ted went into details regarding the pitfalls of gathering information from one particular single source, i.e. newspapers. Reports in newspapers can be inaccurate especially when it comes to the spelling of surnames. An occupation, once clearly understood to a 1894 newspaper reader, may well be misunderstood to a reader decades later. He also gave us a valuable insight into the political situation regarding the establishment of county and local government and detailed some of the social changes that lead to the passing of the Local Government Act of 1894 and the formation of parish councils.

Ted finished his lecture by looking up the details of random parishes as requested by his audience and many recognised the surnames of the local councillors elected for those parishes.
Colleen Devenish (ESFH 6279)
January 2020 Afternoon session
Boxted Airfield - How a WW2 base affected a small village
by Richard Turner
Richard began his presentation by describing how, after starting to collect memorabilia about the airfield in the mid-1990s, he became 'hooked' and so began the Boxted Airfield Historical Group. He informed us that if you go looking for an airfield in Boxted, which is three miles from Colchester, you won't actually find it as it is located in Langham, the next village. Evidently the government of the time had a policy that WW2 airfields would be named after the nearest place but there was already a Langham Airfield in Norfolk so it was called Boxted.

The land used for the airfield had originally been fruit orchards so they had to be destroyed before construction of the airfield could begin in 1941. As with most airfield constructions the runways, in this instance made of concrete, were built first. Other buildings like the control tower and accommodation blocks followed. The airfield was completed in June 1943. Little did anyone realise that the airfield was going to end up with the reputation of being the most important US fighter base in the UK in WW2!

With the aid of some very good illustrations of their insignias Richard then went through the names of the American bomber groups that had flown from Boxted including the 386th Bomb Group which arrived in May 1943, the 354th Fighter Group which came to Boxted in November 1943 and the 56th that arrived in April 1944. To read about the activities of the bomber groups I refer you to the website

Richard then went on to speak about the award of the Congressional Medal of Honour made to Lt Col James Howard C.O. of the 354th regarding a bomber support mission on 11th January 1944. Over the years Richard has spoken to many who have connections with the airfield including pilots and crews who have provided him with first-hand details of what it was like to be based at this Essex airfield.

Towards the end of his presentation Richard showed photographs of the interaction between the American crews and the local people. He went on to explain that after the airfield was closed some local families, owing to the post war shortage of housing, "squatted" in the Nissan huts on the site, finally leaving in 1952.

The Boxted Airfield Museum is located on the old airfield site and is open part of the year. They have a DVD for sale entitled The Story of Boxted Airfield. At present the museum is trying to raise funds to preserve and exhibit eight original WW2 uniforms. All donations will be gratefully received!
Colleen Devenish (ESFH 6279)
December 2019 Morning session
History of Pantomime
by Anita Howard
Anita began her talk with the definition of the word pantomime, which translates from Latin and Greek as 'we can act anything'

The earliest documented pantomime-like performances date back to Roman times, when slaves were apparently served by their cross-dressed masters, and a single dancer would mime all the parts of a story, with much hilarity and debauchery.

By the 12th century the 'Mummers play' was performed to the public by actors, wearing costumes made from strips of rags, telling tales of good versus evil and often contained the origin of many elements of the pantomime.

The 16th century saw the development of pantomime in Italy by the Commedia dell'arte. Characters wore costumes made of patches of bright coloured material, rather than rags. The colours of the patches denoted the mood of the character i.e. happy or sad etc. The characters of Harlequin and Columbine became favourites with the public. Other characters included Pantalone, Columbine's father, who played a rich miser who rode the original pantomime horse. Characters with a 'funny walk' were also seen for the first time.

This type of performance spread across France, and then to England. By the early 1700's cross-dressing characters were playing in pantomimes produced by John Rich at Covent Garden, and at Drury Lane by David Garrick.

By the early 1800's Joseph Grimaldi (1778-1837) had developed the character of 'clown' with attributes of slapstick, comedy, dancing and acrobatics. He became famous for his white face and was the most popular performer of the Regency period. Throughout the 20th century Charlie Chaplin, the Crazy Gang, Arthur Askey and Max Wall (with his very funny walk) became pantomime stars. Hylda Baker, Ken Dodd, Les Dawson, Cannon and Ball and many more added 'catchphrases' to their acts.

Pantomime stories were loosely based on children's tales such as Cinderella, Peter Pan, Beauty and the Beast, and by the 1950's and 60's all involved custard pies, garish costumes, slapstick comedy, goodies, baddies and uglies!

During the 1980's pantomime comedy became rather crude, but this didn't last long. Theatre companies realised that they needed to attract back audiences consisting of the whole family to the pantomime, and now it is more popular than ever, so much so, that the London Palladium recently put on its first pantomime for 30 years, which played to packed audiences.

Anita finished her talk with an amusing rhyming couplet of verse, with which every pantomime should end, and if you are wondering whether her talk was well received?

- Oh yes, it was!!!!!
Andrea Hewitt (ESFH 6398)
December 2019 Afternoon session
An Eccentric Look at the Countryside
by Charlie Haylock
Our end of year afternoon meeting was concluded with the return of the charismatic Suffolk entertainer Charlie Haylock.

Having had ESFH audiences enthralled in the past by his enlightening presentations, History of Spoken English and the History of Surnames, he yet again played to a packed room with his lecture entitled an Eccentric Look at the Countryside.

As expected laughter was heard as soon as he started his performance with his rendition of The Lord's Prayer although some words had been changed to include the village names of many East Anglian places. It would be a studious family historian who could identify all the place names! After more anecdotes including tales about his father, and Suffolk village pubs, he continued with a take on the BBC shipping forecast which he called the Radio Essex forecast - executing this using the names of East Anglian rivers and waterways instead of the "proper" names of the inshore waters around the British Isles.

He informed us that he had had a request from a member of ESFH to repeat his linguistic rendition of the accents of the British Isles, which after a second hearing by me, is still a marvel. He alters the shape of his mouth, changing the position of the tongue and lips throughout to explain and demonstrate regional dialects. There are short clips of this presentation which may be seen by viewing and searching for his name.

He touched on aspects of social history regarding speech patterns and told us that people living in the largest city in the UK, London, have the fastest English speaking speech patterns. East Londoners speak very fast. He stated that this could be claimed for any capital city i.e. Parisians speak the fastest in France.

Having heard Charlie for a third time I understand why, when looking at Charlie's website his public speaking engagements for 2020 are numerous. In addition he finds the time to write publications, train actors in dialects and appear in a monthly radio spot on BBC Suffolk.

If you have not already heard one of Charlie's talks, and have the opportunity to do so, I strongly suggest you go along as I am sure you will not be disappointed.
Colleen Devenish (ESFH 6279)
November 2019 Morning session
Understanding British Campaign Medals and their Role in Family History Research
by John Sly
It is intended that the report for this talk will appear as two feature-length articles in the Society journal The Essex Family Historian - the first of these to be in the March 2020 issue and the second in the August 2020 issue.
November 2019 Afternoon session
Family History Workshop
This Family History Workshop was held in the afternoon of Saturday, 16th November which was perhaps too near to Christmas as very few people attended. Whilst, initially most of our volunteers were busy helping people these were members who had stayed after the morning talk, however we did have a few guest visitors later in the afternoon. The three ladies manning the 'brick walls'section were kept busy all afternoon as were the two on starting your family history but elsewhere there was a lack of interest including the DNA section which we expected to be busy.
Meryl Rawlings (ESFH 6639)
October 2019 Morning session
Sun Life Insurance Records for the Family Historian
by Jeanette R Rosenberg
Jeannette began her talk by explaining the history of fire insurance which came about after the Great Fire of London in 1666, when it became apparent that something needed to be done to prevent a recurrence. A private company called 'The Fire Office' sold the world's first property insurance policies providing money for the restoration or reconstruction of buildings damaged by fire.

In 1710 the Sun Fire Office was established as a mutual society - 17,000 policies were sold in first 10 years. All the buildings insured had decorative plaques (commonly called fire marks) fixed to the front of the building with the policy number on it. If the building caught on fire, the insurance company's private fire brigade would attempt to put it out.

Moving on to the research of these policies, Jeanette advised us that they were a useful resource to consider when endeavouring to trace ancestors in the 18th century. The policies typically give the date, name of the insurance, address and often an occupation and although most of the policyholders lived in London or insured property held there, a substantial number of country properties were covered.

The best place to research these records is the London Metropolitan Archives (LMA) which has:
1. A card index to personal names in Sun policy registers, 1714 - 1731 (Ms 17817), compiled by Alan Redstone. It is arranged by county and alphabetically by name of policy holder within each county. It gives the name and occupation or rank of the policy holder or tenant; the location of the property by county, parish or village (and occasionally street or house name); and the policy register reference. It excludes London, Scotland and Wales.

2. A microfiche index to Sun and Royal Exchange policy registers, 1775 - 87 (Ms 24172), compiled by Professor R. Floud and students at Birkbeck College London. It includes personal name, trade and valuation indexes, and, for Royal Exchange policies only, an assignment index. It excludes Ms 11936/252 which was deposited subsequently. Its nature and scope are described in a companion guide by D. T. Jenkins (Ms 24174).

3. The long-running project "A Place in the Sun" has indexed more than 380,000 policies in over 220 registers as of March 2018, beginning in 1782 and ending in 1842. These index entries are searchable through LMA's online catalogue.

Books recommended by Jeanette are

1 Fire Insurance Records for Family and Local Historians 1696 to 1920 by David T Hawkings

2 The British Insurance Business: A Guide to its History & Records by Hugh Anthony Lewis Cockerell & Edwin Green.

3. Jewish Surnames in London-based Insurance Policies; an index to policyholders who were probably Jewish in the registers of London-based insurance companies from the early-18th to the mid-19th centuries by George Rigal, 2 Volumes, A-L, and M-Z.

Other organisations which cover this subject are National Archives, Fon on an interesting and quite scary subject!
Andrea Hewitt (ESFH 6398) amilySearch, JewishGen, RSA Insurance Group plc (formerly Royal and Sun Alliance) on Wikipedia; and the Society of Genealogy.

A Handout prepared by Jeanette can be found on her own website by clicking

A very informative talk.
Meryl Rawlings (ESFH 6639)
October 2019 Afternoon session
The History of the Home Guard
by Neil Wiffen
Neil introduced his talk with a report from the Essex Chronicle on 23rd February 1940 'The Bishop of Chelmsford stated, "I would like to see a town-guard enrolled, consisting of men from 40-65 years of age"'. It was not however until Germany invaded France and the Low Countries that the Secretary of State for War, Anthony Eden, announced on the radio, the formation of the 'Local Defence Volunteers' (LDV) on 14th May 1940.

To be eligible applicants had to be male, aged 17-65, not engaged in Military Service, and 'wanting to do their bit' to serve their country. In the first 7 days 250,000 volunteers attempted to sign up, mainly at police stations and the response was so huge that officers struggled to process the applicants. By May 17th the LDV became official, with the issue of the Local Defence Volunteers Order.

Perhaps as a result of the earlier plea from the Bishop of Chelmsford, there were queues of men, many ex-soldiers from the Great War, applying to join at Chelmsford. The Essex Chronicle reported that over 1,000 men had signed up by the end of the first day. At Southend 1,000 enrolled, at Brentwood more than 250 and at Rayleigh over 100. Braintree numbered 450, Dunmow 142, Thaxted 86, Epping 232, Harlow 165, and Ongar 105. Nationally, by July 1940 1.5 million men had joined the LDV.

Winston Churchill, then Prime Minister, thought that the name 'Local Defence Volunteers', was 'uninspiring' and ordered it be renamed 'The Home Guard' on 22nd July 1940.

It became common knowledge that the Home Guard were, initially, often short of uniforms and weapons, etc. however areas like Essex which were in close proximity to Europe by sea, and in greater danger of invasion, seemed to be well equipped, relatively quickly. Essex was certainly well supplied with weapons and ammunition as it, sadly, had more civilians accidently killed by the Home Guard, than any other county, throughout the war.

Many of the ex-soldiers who joined were able to effectively command their units and, as well as training exercises, they organised sports events etc. together with the public, to promote fitness, and keep up morale.

Thankfully the invasion never came, and the Home Guard stood down on 31st December 1944 and was finally disbanded on 1st December 1945.

Neil finished his entertaining and informative talk by dressing an unwitting member of the audience in a Home Guard Uniform plus equipment, demonstrating how uncomfortable, heavy and cumbersome it all was!
Andrea Hewitt (ESFH 6398)
September 2019 Morning
Recognition and citizenship - but little advance - Essex Farm Workers 1870-1914
by Ted Woodgate
This talk followed on from the previous talk which dealt with the period up to 1850.

There were significant advances, both politically and in the status of farm workers in the last quarter of the 19th century. In 1884 they got the vote and in 1894 they could vote and they could stand in Parish council elections. The introduction of the new Poor Laws in 1834 saw farmers becoming wealthier as they no longer had to pay the poor rate. In 1846 the Corn Laws were repealed and corn prices stabilised in the 1850s and for the next 20 years.

Unfortunately the weather was so bad in 1879 that it was almost impossible to plough the land. Production in the 1880s was divided as: beef 43%, milk 40% and mutton 35%. Farmers and tenants increased their income by about 35% but the people at the bottom were still desperate, earning about 20-30% less than industrial workers at that time. Families would tramp the countryside with their few belongings, looking for work. Joseph Archer, who was president of the National Union of Agricultural Workers, was elected as a Liberal MP. Branches of the Union were active in North West Essex (Sawston Branch), North Essex and South Essex. Many of the workers' wives backed the Union. In the 1870s the USA began to export cereal to Britain at very low prices and the first refrigerated ship from Australia brought cheap meat. As a result of this there was more hardship for agricultural labourers.

George Mason Bell was the leader of the North Essex Branch of the Union where in 1880 the farmers locked out the workers. Eventually the workers returned to work. There were elections in 1884, 1885, 1886 and 189 - Saffron Walden and Maldon both returned Liberal MPs whilst Harwich and Tilbury elected Conservatives. The agricultural labourers tended to vote Liberal (there being no Labour Party).

In 1914 farm workers were being paid 13 shillings a week which was 8 shillings and 8 pence less than the amount considered by Joseph Rowntree to be sufficient for mere survival. From these wages rent needed to be paid and, often, a large family supported. Additionally they received part of their wages in beer, which did not help their families.

There were strikes and much violence with the police being called in. Six men from Ashdon were sent to Cambridge Prison. The men were demanding 16s a week. In July 1914 2,000 labourers attended a meeting at Helions Bumpstead at which Sylvia Pankhurst was one of the speakers. The Agricultural Workers Union was very left wing. Four weeks after this, war was declared, and the six men languishing in prison were released on the condition that they enlisted and so the unrest amongst the farm workers came to an end.
Janice Sharpe (ESFH 5841)
September 2019 Afternoon session
The 18th Century Members of the Petre Family
by Lord Petre
Lord Petre (the 18th Baron Petre), whose family have lived in the Essex area for 480 years, talked to us about the 7th, 8th and 9th Lords Petre, all named Robert.

The 7th Lord Petre (1689-1713) lived at Thorndon Hall, Ingrave, which had been purchased in 1573 by the 1st Lord Petre. The Speaker was able to show us drawings and details of the house and of the estate. We saw that Thorndon Hall had summer and winter parlours which were designed to take best advantage of the seasons. Thomas, the 6th Lord Petre, father of the 7th, was already 57 years old when this son was born and so Robert succeeded to the title at an early age of 17. This 7th Lord Petre was the protagonist for the poem "The Rape of the Lock" by Alexander Pope, having cut a lock of hair from his cousin's head. He married a wealthy heiress, Catherine Walmsley from the Ribble Valley, Lancashire, the marriage taking place in a private house at 8pm, in order not to arouse attention, it being a Roman Catholic marriage. Catherine had been taught to dance at a cost of 50 guineas and in 1711 she spent £300 on her wardrobe - vast sums of money.

The 7th Lord and his wife moved to Ingatestone Hall in order that his mother and others of her children might continue to live in Thorndon Hall.

When their son, Robert James, the 8th Lord Petre, (1713-1742) was born, Robert senior had already died of smallpox just three months earlier. Catherine continued to support popish causes - £500 dowries for girls entering a convent, help for prisoners of the 1715 Rising, apprenticeships for boys and elementary Catholic schools. Catherine was married for a second time to Lord Sterling, a lawyer at Grays Inn, she was widowed again and she lived to the age of 87 years.

Robert James, 8th Lord Petre, married Anne Maria Radcliffe, the daughter of the Earl of Derwentwater who was sympathetic to the Jacobite cause. The couple took up residence at Thorndon Hall. He commissioned a Venetian architect to remodel the Hall. He had ambitious plans for the park, which involved the demolition of West Horndon Church, which was replaced with St. Nicholas Church in Ingrave. Between 1740 and 1742 60,000 trees were planted, mainly American species.

When Robert James died, he was succeeded by his son, Robert Edward, the 9th Lord Petre (1742-1801). The architect, James Paine, was engaged to construct a new house at a cost of £250,000 which equates to around £50m today. Construction commenced in 1764 and was completed in 1770. This building was gutted by fire at the end of the 19th century. Robert Edward also commissioned Paine to build a new London house in Park Lane, having previously resided in Curzon Street. In 1778 George III visited the Hall - believed to be the first visit by the king to a Catholic household.

The 9th Lord Petre was Chairman of the Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation Company which owned and managed the waterway between Chelmsford and Heybridge and in 1771 he became a Freemason in spite of the Papal edict forbidding membership. He became Grand Master of England. He had two children by his first wife, Ann, and after her death he married Juliana Howard, the sister of the Duke of Norfolk and 27 years his junior. She was also the younger sister of his son's wife.
Janice Sharpe (ESFH 5841)
July 2019 Morning session
The Witch Craze in Essex in the 16th and 17th centuries
by Christopher Thompson
Christopher opened his lecture, with the fact that hundreds of accusations of witchcraft had been made in Essex. Witchcraft was often portrayed in old woodcuts of witches and their 'familiars', and later in the 20th century, by Vincent Price the actor, playing Matthew Hopkins, the infamous 'Witch-finder General' of the 1640's, on film.

It appears that, particularly older women, came to be accused of witchcraft, and that this was often due to their lack of status. In the 16th and 17th centuries there was little or no social care, and since women generally live slightly longer than men, and that men were the main breadwinners, the death of her husband would often leave a working class woman destitute. Usually, their only other source of assistance, would be from their community.

Before the Reformation the Roman Catholic faith promoted acts of charity, but after the Reformation this was discouraged. Where a desperate woman requested help from their neighbour and this was refused, the woman may become so distraught that she might become angry, and so, curse her neighbour. If something unfortunate then happened to that neighbour, or their family, it would be assumed to have occurred as a result of the curse, and the woman could be accused of witchcraft.

Cases would be heard by Church of England Courts, mainly up until the 1540's and later at Quarter Sessions or Assize Courts.

The first wave of accusations in Essex occurred in the late 16th century. Agnes Waterhouse was the first person to be hanged for witchcraft in the UK at Chelmsford in 1566 and she is remembered today in the road name, Waterhouse Lane, in Chelmsford.

In 1572 Alice Chaundler of Maldon was accused of 'bewitching to death' 5 members of the same family. She was found guilty, at Chelmsford, and hanged. Just 5 years later, Alice's daughter Ellen Smythe was also accused of causing the death of a child by witchcraft, and she was also hanged.

By 1640 when Puritanism had helped to diminish the power of the Roman Catholic Church, and most people were less likely to be charitable to others, the number of accusations in Essex increased to over 700 in just one year! Thankfully many accused were acquitted.

In 1645 Ellen Clarke, of Manningtree, was accused. After 'examination' by Matthew Hopkins, which would have included torture, in modern terms, she admitted having sex with the devil, and keeping a dog, a ferret and a toad, as her familiars. She was also hanged at Chelmsford.

The last executions for witchcraft in England are believed to have taken place in Huntingdon in 1716, and in 1735. The Witchcraft Act deemed that it was no longer a criminal offence, however popular belief lived on for many years.

This was a light hearted but stimulating presentation.
July 2019 Afternoon session
The Victorian House
by Ann Wise
Queen Victoria ruled from 1837 to 1901 during which time great social and technological changes took place in the United Kingdom. Ann started her lecture by describing the attitudes towards housing before the start of Victoria's reign and how the industrial revolution, which had been underway for almost 80 years prior, laid the foundations for the urban expansion of major towns during her reign.

Simultaneously a new class of people emerged, the middle classes (which itself was subdivided) who in the hierarchy of society were between the working class poor of the rural areas and the aristocracy who owned country estates and town houses. This new class of society included people with occupations such as shopkeepers, clerks, government and business workers, owners of factories, lawyers etc. They extolled the virtue of family life and desired homes which proclaimed to the world their new status and social position.

Ann went on to describe the typical features found inside a Victorian home and talked us through the proliferation of key decorative items including tiles, wallpaper, carpets, curtains, and fireplaces that were "must haves" for the Victorian house. The desire by the nouveaux riches to enhance their homes led to the demand for new products and services. For a more detailed explanation of Ann's entertaining presentation please see her feature article in the next edition of The Essex Family Historian to be published at the beginning of December 2019.
Colleen Devenish (ESFH 6279)
June 2019 Morning session
Bishopsgate Institute and its Collections
by Stefan Dicker, Special Collections and Archives Manager
Stefan has presented to ESFH audiences before and has worked for the Bishopsgate Institute situated at 230 Bishopsgate, London EC2 for many years. He was the ideal person to introduce the organisation and its collections to the large audience that attended the June morning meeting.

He told us about the original aims of the Institute, founded in 1894, which was to bring knowledge to people living and working in the City of London. The Institute did this by providing a public library, public hall and meeting rooms. In the early days the organisation was financed by using funds from charitable endowments made to the parish of St Botolph without Bishopsgate over a 500 year period. Between 1897 and 1941 the librarian was Charles William Frederick Goss (1864 - 1946) who was largely responsible for building the collections of the Institute books and was a keen active local historian.

Today the Institute runs courses for adults, holds special events and has a library with books and an archive collection covering a wide variety of subjects which is particularly strong in the areas of social and political history, protest and campaigning.

This independent library is free to visit. Subject guides to the library's main collections can be downloaded from their website and the Institute has a presence on the social media sites Facebook and Twitter. Their website has a searchable online catalogue and digitized images of many of the most popular archival items including the publication, My Apprenticeship to Crime, an autobiography of Arthur Harding, a long time East End criminal.

Stefan illustrated his talk throughout and spoke about some of the special collections they hold like the unique collection of printed London guidebooks and ephemera relating to the Bishopsgate and Spitalfields areas. An ongoing project is the Great Diary Project which rescues, archives, and makes publicly available, a collection of more than 9000 unpublished diaries.
Colleen Devenish (ESFH 6279)
June 2019 Afternoon session
The Rise and Fall of Colchester's Good-Time Girls
by Jane Pearson
Dr Jane Pearson is the co-author of a book entitled "Prostitution in Victorian Colchester - Controlling the Uncontrollable" published in 2018 which was reviewed in the March 2019 edition of our membership magazine The Essex Family Historian. Her lecture comprised of detailing some of the background information collected when she researched her book. Her research sources included census returns, information obtained from local newspapers, coroners', military, medical, social, and workhouse records and demographic data. As a result of all her research she has created a substantial database of names and places.

Jane went on to explain that Colchester's total Victorian population included a substantial number of army personnel from the local garrison which had greatly expanded in 1856. As of the 1860's, thousands of unmarried soldiers were adding to the problems of the town. Soldiers were not allowed to marry unless they had the permission of their commanding officer as the army would not take any responsibility for wives and children.

The requirements of the local military camp had a growth effect on local businesses as they supplied the needs of the officers and men. A number of unmarried soldiers lived in the barracks in the south of the town and this resulted in an opportunity for poor women, often drawn by desperate circumstances, to earn money as prostitutes.

There is at least one recorded event where several clergymen demanded the withholding of the granting of public house licences until the authorities had investigated the publicans who seemed to benefit from the prostitution trade.

Jane detailed the workings of the Colchester Lock Hospital. The government authorities, recognizing that Colchester was a garrison town, named it as one of the places to implement the 3rd Contagious Disease Act of 1869. This Act of Parliament sought to limit the spread of venereal disease by arresting women found within a certain radius of a garrison area. Once arrested they were taken to be physically examined to see whether they had a sexually transmitted infection. If so, compulsory treatment followed by being locked up in a hospital until cured. Some prostitutes volunteered to be examined therefore semi legalising their trade. If charged, records show that not all the women were subservient and some retaliated by verbally abusing court officials.

Jane's research gave us all a good understanding of Colchester's good-time girls.
Colleen Devenish (ESFH 6279)
May 2019 Morning session
Using Jewish Records for Non-Jewish Genealogy
by Jeanette Rosenberg OBE
Jeanette explained that from 1066-1290 many Jewish people came to settle in the UK, however, around 1290 they were expelled as a result of the Edict of Expulsion, a royal decree issued by King Edward I. Some managed to stay on. When Cromwell took power in 1651, Jews were freely allowed into Britain again. In the 1800's, following prejudice and maltreatment in many countries, once again many Jews sought new lives in the UK and other countries like the USA, Canada and France.

To be married in the Jewish faith both parties must already be Jewish, so if a Jewish person wanted to be married in their synagogue to a non-Jew that person would have to take up the faith.

There were so many immigrants arriving in cities like London, that many who are unaware of a Jewish link in their family may have a relative who took up the Jewish faith in order to marry, and if this is this case, Jewish records, which tend to be quite detailed, may be a source of very useful information to the family historian.

Jeanette suggested the best place to search first would be and that there are many regional groups, one being based at Southend-on-Sea. Jewishgen is free to use and provides search facilities by surname, a town index (very useful as town names frequently were changed during periods of war and pogroms) and a holocaust database etc. The family finder allows you to search surnames by fuzzy/fuzzier/fuzziest selections which is helpful as many Jewish names are misspelt, or are Anglicised. There are also family trees, and a Communities Database giving information on many towns with Jewish populations, across Europe and Russia.

Jeanette's own website has a huge list of websites and information, some which may be particularly relevant to family historians. Here, one can also download a handout of the talk she presented at our meeting under the title "Using Jewish Records for Non-Jewish Genealogy"
A very informative and enlightening talk.
Andrea Hewitt (ESFH 6398)
May 2019 Afternoon session
London Peculiar
by Charlie Mead
Charlie gave us an excellent presentation complete with slide show about some of the many things in London which you could easily miss, also telling us about the history behind them. Below are Charlie's comments on three of them:

"Giro, a true companion! London, February 1934, Hoesch".
Giro was the beloved dog of Leopold von Hoesch, the German Ambassador in London from 1932-36. Some sources state that Giro was a German Shepherd dog, others a terrier. Of the two, terrier, seems to be the more likely. The Ambassador's residence was at 9 Carlton House Terrace, now home to the Royal Society, but in the 1930s it was the German Embassy. One day Giro was playing in the embassy grounds when it came into contact with a live electricity cable. Zap! The poor mutt was no more. Claims that the dog received a full Nazi burial are most unlikely as von Hoesch was openly opposed to the Third Reich. Sadly, when von Hoesch died from a heart attack just two years later, unlike his dog, he was given a full Nazi-style send off.

In 1995, to celebrate the area's history and cultural diversity, 25 cast iron roundels, with 20 different patterns, were set into pavements around Spitalfields East London. The artist, Keith Bowler, who has lived in the area for many years, designed them and had them cast locally. In 2006, after 11 years had elapsed, a search was made to find them and see how many remained. Only 12 of the 25 were found. The roundel in Puma Court depicts children's toys - a whipping top and marbles - it marks the site of a children's play area. The roundel outside the Health Centre in Brick Lane depicts henna hand decoration, reflecting the Bengali community in the area. Outside Christ Church School the roundel depicts a schoolboy and girl with an exercise book and pencils.

Clayton Street runs alongside the giant gas holders next to Kennington Oval. The railings were installed after World War II to replace those requisitioned for the war effort. These post-war replacements illustrate the "make do and mend" attitude of post-war austerity. They are made from surplus ARP (air raid precaution) stretchers. These are now but a few of the austerity railings still remaining, such as those outside Kilner House.

A very interesting and informative talk.
Meryl Rawlings (ESFH 6639)
April 2019 Morning session
Essex Archives on Line - the Essex Record Office
by Ian Boreham
The Essex Record Office (ERO) building holds thousands of documents of great value to family historians researching Essex connections so it is important for members to become familiar with the ERO online database - Essex Archives Online.

All ERO records can be accessed free of charge by visitors to the Essex Record Office in Chelmsford. For those unable to visit the archive their catalogue can be SEARCHED remotely however to gain further functionality a user has to register or purchase a subscription. The subscription can be daily, weekly, monthly or yearly. For detailed information please see .

Ian Boreham , who is the ESFH Archivist, gave an in-depth illustrated overview of various aspects of the Essex Archives Online database using as an example Charles Clerke, who was a Captain in the Royal Navy, and who died attempting a fourth voyage around the world with Captain James Cook.

He demonstrated how to search for a subject and rationalise the results. Catalogue searches may bring up graphical images which can be seen only as a small image however to view a larger image, in most instances, a subscription is needed. He showed us how to save the image to our own computer using Microsoft Windows Notepad (found under Windows Accessories) and how you could use the nomenclature of the ERO document in a file name. He emphasised the importance of having an organised file structure on your own computer.

When Ian presented the Essex Archives Home page (which has the Document reference and Search box on the top right hand side) he indicated, by scrolling down to the bottom of the page, a heading entitled User Guides which can be seen on the left hand side of the screen. These guides cover the topics researching family history, house history, classic vehicle history and using electoral rolls. Under the heading User Guides at the very top of the page there is also a User Guide on understanding Parish Records.

At the bottom of the same page Ian explained the functionality of the orange, turquoise, red and blue icons. The orange "cloud" button allows access to the FREE Essex Sound and Video Archive and, by downloading a free software product called SoundCloud as instructed, you can listen to recordings of individuals talking about many aspects of past Essex life. The turquoise button takes you to their Twitter feed, the red to YouTube and the blue to their Facebook page. There is also a strapline "Read our blog" which when hit enables you to read the ERO blog site and subscribe free of charge to receive regular blogs.

Ian explained that documents could be ordered in advance of a visit or when you arrived at ERO. For details regarding visiting ERO please see
Colleen Devenish (ESFH 6279)
April 2019 Afternoon session
The Women Who Crewed the Narrow Boats during WW2
by Denis Padfield
Denis introduced his presentation by explaining the history of how, before the outbreak of the Second World War, narrow boats and barges had been manned largely by families.
Their life style was unique as they worked and lived on their boats and thus they developed a canal "culture" as they travelled up and down the waterways delivering bulk commodities like coal, grain, cement etc. Often their barges and narrow boats were drawn by horses along the tow paths. In Essex we had the Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation Canal which ran from Springfield Wharf in Chelmsford to Heybridge Basin a total of 13.75 miles.

Many of us are familiar with the term Land Girls, women who worked the land during WW1 and WW2, but how many of us realised that approximately 45 women aged 18-35 worked on the canals and waterways during the years 1943-1946 manning the narrow boats. Given the nickname "Idle Women" after a book by Susan Woolfit printed in the 1940s, the nickname was a play on the letters IW which were the initials of the Inland Waterways which appeared on badges they wore.

During the Second World War in the UK there were approximately 3500 miles of navigable waterways much of which connected large towns and, luckily for the narrow boat crews, were not targets for Hitler's bombs. The intrepid women who volunteered for this type of work had to be very fit and healthy and would have to get used to zero home comforts. They volunteered from all social backgrounds and took a six week training course before being allowed to man the crafts and receiving pay of £3 per week for crewing.

In addition to controlling two vessels - an average narrow boat was approximately 72 feet long which had attached to it by rope a smaller craft called a butty (unpowered) behind, the three women crew would have had to handle the opening and closing of lock gates and, when required, to "walk" the boats through dark tunnels. This involved lying on ones back and walking along the inside brickwork of an unlit tunnel propelling the craft. The combined carrying volume of the main vessel and the butty could be approximately 70 tonnes of cargo which had to be loaded and unloaded at the required destinations. Once the two vessels were fully loaded they floated only 4 inches above the water line.

Denis mentioned the names of several of the women who volunteered and so contributed to the war effort by taking up this strenuous unusual work, including Miss Daphne March and her mother Margaret, Daphne French, Kitty Gayford, Evelyn Hunt, Audrey "Steerer" Harper and Anne Blake.

Further reading and photographs regarding these women can be found on the Canal and River Trust website where you can find information about visiting all UK canals. There is a canal museum in London
Colleen Devenish (ESFH 6237)
March 2019 Morning session
The British in India by Peter Bailey
by Peter Bailey
Peter Bailey is the President of the Families in British India Society and gave us a very detailed introduction to the sources for research. His Society has a website which is a must-view for any reader interested in this subject. Here are the main points of his presentation:-

Most biographical data on European residents of British India & South Asia (1600-1947) are lodged in the India Office Records at the British Library
Most official early records of British India relate to the East India Company and government employees (Traders, Civil Servants, Military, Maritime)
Non-government employees required recorded authority from the East India Company to travel and work in India (1660 to 1858)
The significant records of Baptism, Marriage and Burial are currently being made available on line by the Church of Latter Day Saints at
The Families in British India Society organisation (FIBIS) is transcribing as many additional records as possible to enable researches to obtain data.
FIBIS is also controlling the build-up of their 'FibiWiki' for researchers to understand the background to the lives led by their ancestors in British India.
In addition to the above mentioned websites current major sources on line are:-       (highlight, then right-click then 'Go to')

Relevant literature includes:-
Biographical Sources in the India Office Records by Ian A Baxter
Researching Ancestors in the East India Company Armies by Peter Bailey
British Ships in India Waters: Their Owners, Crew and Passengers by Richard Morgan
Researching Ancestors in the Indian Army 1861-1947 by Peter Bailey
Colleen Devenish (ESFH 6279)
March 2019 Afternoon session
Changing Face of Basildon Borough over the last 150 years
by Ken Porter
Ken Porter, a local author and member of the Basildon Heritage Society is a native of Basildon. He started his presentation by quoting from Arthur Young (agriculturist 1741-1820) reminding us that several hundred years ago Basildon and the surrounding countryside had been a land of wheat, sheep and marshes.

The population of Basildon in the 1881 Census was 157 people. Similarly, the surrounding villages of Langdon Hills, Pitsea, Vange, Lea Chapel and Laindon had very few residents, consisting of populations of 231, 266, 272, 3 and 233 respectively.

Following a combination of poor harvests, imports of American grain, and the lack of investment in improving the poor quality of the South Essex heavy clay, eventually many farmers gave up working the soil and it was sold off cheaply for building land. The opening of the direct rail link between Fenchurch Street and Shoeburyness in 1888 and social changes that allowed Londoners more leisure, resulted in many visiting the Essex countryside for the first time.

From the 1880s land speculators, including Frederick Francis Ramuz (Mayor of Southend on Sea 1898-1900), started auctioning off large tracts of poor agricultural land, divided into small plots, and later known as "plotlands" to the people in East London. The plots were snapped up at between £5 and £10 each. Further speculators, including London-based land developers, local developers like Harry Foulger and Thomas Helmore at Laindon, James Humm and Robert Varty at Vange and Pitsea, sold plots of land to hordes of ordinary London folk. As the area had a lack of local authority controls the buyers erected all types of buildings for their weekend retreats and eventually many moved to live permanently in these areas.

In 1931 the population of Laindon had increased to 4552, and Lea Chapel to 3002.

By the mid-1930s this haphazard development was causing concern for the Billericay Urban District Council whose problems were compounded during and after WW2 by further people fleeing from their bombed-out London environments and settling in the area. A wide range of facilities including made-up roads, drainage, lighting and sewerage were absent. Unable to finance the restructure of the area Billericay Urban District Council schemed with Essex County Council to persuade the Government to designate the area as a "New Town" hence using the resources of central government to clear the area and create a place called Basildon New Town, located between the existing towns of Laindon and Pitsea.

The Basildon Development Corporation was born and therein lies another story.
Colleen Devenish (ESFH 6279)
February 2019 Afternoon session
Fighting the Authorities and the 60's Social Revolution
by Alan Goldsmith
Alan explained that he grew up in the 1940s and his teenage years were spent just over the Essex border in Bishops Stortford Hertfordshire.

He started his talk by comparing his teenage years of the 1940s and 50s in England with that of teenagers growing up in the 1960s. He felt his generation had been the last to be brought up to be obsequious and servile. By the late 1960's England had experienced a social revolution resulting in young people becoming less constrained and able to enjoy 'pop music', liberalised sex, the joys of alcohol and in some cases (but not many) drug-taking.

After trying several jobs at the age of 18 he started in the music profession by managing a local band and after a few years he became a pop music promoter putting on concerts mainly in Braintree, Great Dunmow and surrounding districts.

He regaled us with many anecdotes of the 'celebrities' he had promoted, including Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Dionne Warwick and the Southend band, Procol Harum, to name but a few. He wrote about his life in a book entitled "Giving it Both Barrels" published in 2003 and which is still available. He progressed to the staging of events like music festivals at stately homes and air shows.

In 1968/9 he bought approximately 15 acres of land which had a small piece of an ancient wall on it. Evidently this was from the remains of Stansted Mountfitchet Castle. His dream was to build a medieval wooden fort on the site and open it to visitors. He then began a five-year fight with the local authorities before opening an authentic looking Norman wooden castle as a tourist attraction. The attraction is still open for part of the year and has attracted thousands of visitors over the subsequent decades. Details can be found at

Alan was a very entertaining and able speaker although I did feel his talk would have been enhanced by the use of some photographs.
Colleen Devenish (ESFH 6279)
February 2019 Morning session
Quality Perfect, Prices Lower
by Allison Foster - Sainsbury Archivist
For details of this presentation please see the August 2019 edition of The Essex Family Historian.
January 2019 Afternoon session
Historic Timber Framing - A Medieval Carpenters Art
by John Walker
John is a member of the Essex Historic Building Group and shared his extensive expertise, with examples of timber framed buildings from Essex, and Suffolk.

He explained the production of wattle and daub, and showed us how timber was cut, to be shaped by axe. It would take over 300 oak trees to build one farm house, and 50 acres of woodland could produce enough wood to construct one farm house every 6 years. Four carpenters would take about 6 months to build the structure, and they were so rightly proud of their work that they often left their personal marks on show within the building.

From the 15th century "jettied" houses and shops became popular, where the first floor protruded over the ground floor by 2-3 feet, much of the supporting timbers for this would be exposed and highly decorated. By the 17th century this style became unfashionable and many such buildings were given brick facades, with Georgian styles windows and doors. We were shown examples of Essex timber framed buildings like Fyfield Hall Fyfield, Harlowbury Manor Harlow, and Cann Hall Clacton. These types of building can also be found in East Street Coggeshall, and Bridge Street Writtle.

John finished his informative talk by suggesting that anyone requiring more information should contact the Essex Historic Building Group via their website
Andrea Hewitt (ESFH 6398)

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