Colchester reports


RECENT MEETINGS IN COLCHESTER


April 2019 - Sidetracked by Meryl Catty

Who has not been sidetracked while researching? It only takes an interesting piece of information or an intriguing incident to take you down a path you didn’t intend. This was the theme of Meryl’s talk.

She related some of the things she had found in newspapers, for instance, murders, court cases, accidents. She then moved on to Parish Records. Here it was comments from various vicars about the people he had baptised, married or buried. She also told us of some of the extraordinary names that people had given their children. It made one wonder how it had affected their lives. Census returns sometimes revealed that people were not where they should be or with those one expected them to be with.

At other times the information was as simple as the weather and its effects on the population. Sometimes the events could be country wide or worldwide.

This was an interesting talk which held everyone’s interest.
Gill Peregrine


March 2019 - The Gentile Class of Colchester and their homes by Patrick Denny

This was a most fascinating talk. Patrick showed us how the Georgians changed their timber framed houses to suit the new tastes. They built a brick front on to the houses; you can see this if you look at the side view. They also added new windows and a striking front door.

The early windows were flush with the walls with the sash boxes showing. Later they set the windows one brick back and hid the sash boxes. From this you can guess the age of the front.

Patrick showed us the different styles of doors and “door cases”. These were specific to each person; if you look around Colchester you will see that no two doors are the same in these old Georgian houses.

We focused on a few of the houses on East Hill, 9 and10 East Hill, Greyfriars, East Hill House and Hollytrees. All these houses during the 1700’s had enormous grounds. They would have a terrace at the back with a summer house at the end so that there was somewhere to walk to after dinner! There is still one of these at the back of the Minories.

Patrick made the subject extremely interesting. He has published a book about it called ‘The Buildings of Colchester’. We have a copy of this book on the shelf in the library of our research room at the Essex Record Office, along with several other books by Patrick about Colchester.
Gill Peregrine


February 2019 - Cherchez La Femme by Helen Matten

Helen’s talk centred on tracing the female line. This is obviously more complicated than searching for the male line, as there is a name change with each generation. If you are lucky you may already be able to identify three generations back but after that it can be a lot harder.

Now we have the advantage of the mother’s maiden name on all the GRO index birth indexes where it was captured. This is a great help for tracing the marriage and the next generation.

You need to look at the work of the women and their neighbours; sometimes they married the boy next door! Widowed men would remarry quite quickly especially if they had children. This wife could also be a widow herself, which adds further names to be investigated.

During the talk Helen stressed the need for us to write on the back of our photos. If the Victorians had done this, we would not have such a problem identifying our ancestors. It would make our journey so much easier!
Gill Peregrine


January 2019 – Computing for Family History

Our session this month should have been a computer problem session led by David Cooper. However David was unwell. At short notice David Eniffer, very ably assisted by Paul Stirland, was able to offer a presentation on aspects of computing for Family History.

We looked at software for storing your information. One was Family Tree Maker which was used by most of the group. This had been unavailable for a while but was now up and running again.

David also showed us how to start a Microsoft Power Point software presentation and not to be afraid to try things out. Someone then asked what ‘GEDCOM’ was which David explained. After that there was some discussion on different subjects, ‘snipping’ (Windows Snipping Tool) the web search engine ‘Bing’ for photos and the fact Google has a web based product called Google Photos which enables you to share and store your photos.

This was a very useful and interesting session. David and Paul were well thanked for their efforts.
Gill Peregrine


December 2018 – Christmas Social

This month as usual was our Christmas social. Paul and David devised some fiendish quizzes.

One of Paul’s was pictures of famous people connected to Essex and one of David’s was to guess the population of various towns in Essex at the time of the 1851 census. This was multiple choice quiz which should have made it easier. Strangely it didn’t. Some of the answers were quite surprising.

After this we enjoyed a seasonal buffet.
Gill Peregrine


November 2018 - Tales of Mersea Island by Jan Williams

Jan began by mentioning Mehalea, the book by Sabine Baring Gould, who was vicar of East Mersea from 1871-1881. In his book he talks about the flora and fauna of the island, its proximity to the sea and gives a real feeling of the island.

The Strood connecting the Island to the main land was built during the 7th century. There are tales of many people who have experienced the ghost of a Roman Centurion who walks from the public house the Peldon Rose to the Mersea Mound.

This mound was excavated in 1912 and a glass bottle containing ashes was found at the bottom. It was found to be Roman. It was taken from the island but has now been returned and is in the Mersea (museum.www.merseamuseum.org.uk)

It was the Romans who discovered the oysters which have been a great food source for hundreds of years

There are of course many tales of smugglers and of witchcraft.

Jan ended her talk with two tales. Beauty and the Beast adapted by S Baring Gould and The King of Colchester’s Daughter.

These were delightful and rounded the talk with a very fitting end.
Gill Peregrine


October 2018 - The work of our ancestors

We had booked Meryl Catty for a talk but unfortunately she was unwell.

Three of us from the branch committee decided give a short talk about the work of an ancestor.

I began by telling the group about the “Sir” in my family tree. He is linked to me, as he was married my great grandfather’s brother’s daughter, quite a distant relative but still important. He was Sir Benjamin Charles Stanley Martin.

Vice Admiral Sir Benjamin Charles Stanley Martin KBE Distinguished Service Order (DSO) was a Royal Navy officer who was the first boy from the Royal Naval Hospital School Greenwich to reach flag rank in the Royal Navy. He was also the first officer from the lower deck to become a Rear-Admiral in modern times. He was captain of HMS Dorsetshire which was a heavy cruiser of the County class of the Royal Navy and in 1941 assisted in the operations against the German battleship Bismarck. After intercepting the damaged Bismarck Dorsetshire applied the coup-de-grace with a final torpedo attack which sank the battleship at 11am on May 27. Martin received a DSO for his actions that day.

Pauline then spoke to us about Thomas Maddock who had begun a friendly society in Bristol. He ran the Fox Inn which was where the society held their meetings. He later became a cycle dealer. He invented some parts to improve cycling. His Society became The Oddfellows Friendly Society.

Later she also told us about John Walcott (1754-1831), her 4 times great grandfather, and was very active as a naturalist. He wrote and illustrated several books which are in the British Library. Pauline was able to show us some of his excellent bird illustrations.

David used a presentation that he had but had adapted for today. It was titled “Brother Harry”. He began life as a draper’s apprentice but joined The Shakers in England. He lived for many years in the New Forest in a tent. The group often upset their neighbours as they were ‘different’. The aspect that upset people the most was their trance like dancing. They were moved on and had several different places some they were turned out of, so much so that they were disbanded eventually.

This turned out to be quite an interesting afternoon, so we might do something similar later next year.
Gill Peregrine


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