St John's Church, Old Harlow
now the Arts and Recreation Centre [ARC].

Where the Branch holds its meetings
on the first Saturday of each month from 2:15 pm.

This page contains reports of recent meetings only.
Should you wish to read about earlier talks, you will find them in the relevant edition
of "The Essex Historian" in the archive in the Members' Area of this web site.

February 2020 - The Bishop's Stortford Union Workhouse by Bill Hardy

Bill’s talk began with the Elizabethan Poor Law of 1601, which placed a responsibility on every Parish to support its poor and destitute parishioners. ‘Poor Houses’ were usually established to house people in need.Some of these buildings still exist in the Bishops Stortford area, notably at Thorley Elsenham and Stansted, as very expensive residential properties.

The 1834 Poor Law established Unions of groups of pariahs. The Bishops Stortford Union straddled the Essex/Hertfordshire border. Each Union was required to have its own purpose built ‘Workhouse’ to house people without the means to house themselves. The Bishops Stortford Workhouse was of typical design with three blocks radiating from a central point, surrounded by six low rise buildings forming a hexagon. Conditions were harsh with men women and children housed in separate wings.

Bill had been involved in a project researching local correspondence with the Poor Law Commission at Somerset House. This involved the transcription of over 4000 records at the TNA. Bill discussed a number of examples. The collection may be viewed at

At the end of the Victorian period, the building became the Haymeads Infirmary.It was enlarged to accommodate casualties from the Great War and again in World War II. In 1948, it was taken into the National Health Service and served as a general hospital for half a century until services were centralised in Harlow. The site was then redeveloped to provide a small community hospital in new buildings.

The Workhouse buildings have been converted into luxury flats. A number of social housing units have been constructed in the surrounding grounds,

John Young

ESFH 6399

January 2020 - A Walk with the Admiral by Richard Thomas

Local historian Richard Thomas took us through the history of a small, secluded area in Hoddesdon, where he has lived for the past fifty years. He has examined the records of the area from the thirteenth century to the present time. Rental documents in Manorial Rolls show it as grazing land on the marshy area on the west bank of the River Lea. The rent remained constant at 13s 4d per annum for several centuries. In the early seventeenth century, the New River was constructed to supply clean water to London.This runs along the 100ft contour to the west of the Lea, crossing two tributary streams to create a virtual ‘island’.It is accessed by a single road from the High Street.

In the nineteenth century, a Mr McKenzie bought the land to market residential plots, suitable for single houses. He named his estate ‘Admiral’s Walk’. The name was inspired by a retired Admiral who lived in a large house called ’Yewlands’ in the High Street. He is said to have regularly walked his dog down Upper Marsh Lane to the two rivers. But it may not be as simple as that.

The Admiral was Donat Henchy O’Brien who, as a young officer, served in the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars. Later he published, in two volumes his story. He describes being imprisoned in France as a prisoner of war, escaping and walking to the channel coast, only to be re-captured. He then escaped again and headed for Switzerland only to be caught and returned to prison. After his third escape he was able to walk to Marseille and find a ship to bring him back to England. Once home, he resumed his naval career and was rapidly promoted. In all, he had walked for about 1000 miles across France.Perhaps it was this epic walk that is commemorated in Hoddesdon, not his exercise with his dog?

Although the development started slowly, it eventually grew into a thriving community, with many, like Richard, living there for a very long t

John Young 6399

December 2019 - Christmas Quiz with Elizabeth Cox

The members enjoyed our, now traditional, Christmas Quiz and mince pies.

The questions are set by the Committee members, one section each, and put by Elizabeth Cox, our Chairman.Rounds cover both family and social history topics as well as general knowledge.As usual, there were question that we could not answer but we went away having learned something new when the answers were given.

John Young

ESFH 6399

November 2019 – A Brick Wall I have knocked down with Local Members

The afternoon was opened by Jean Wight who told us about some paintings that had been left in the estate of her friend’s great aunt in Scotland.  It turned out that they had been painted by a known Victorian artist, Hugh Collins and his daughter. There was a mystery about the name of the daughter who, with the aid of the British Newspaper Archives and Trove down under, was found to have made her name in Australia as Jennett Collins.

Jean Broom went through her Sewell family that was littered with brick walls that had not been penetrated.Lots of interesting anecdotes but, unfortunately still many mysteries.

John Sly described his efforts to find the record of the owner of a medal he had in his collection. He found the recipient’s military record but could not relate it to the civilian world. He had found a stray death certificate in the man’s file at the National Archives, subsequently he realised that the certificate was in the correct file.The medal holder had used a false name during his military service.He had changed his name when he joined the army, perhaps to hide a record of petty crime.

Elizabeth Cox had for many years struggled to trace records of a woman she had first found in the old fiche version of the International Genealogical Index , the pre-curser of the modern Family Search website.  Eventually, she was able to see images of the original register to find that the name that had been transcribed as ‘Hones’ was, in fact, ‘Howes’.  She reinforced the advice that one should not rely on transcriptions but always where possible, look at the original.

Twenty years ago, John Young has traced his maternal line back to a blacksmith, John Suckling, who had married in Widford, Hertfordshire in 1770.  He had also found a second blacksmith, Thomas in Widford , who seemed like a brother.  With a third Suckling in nearby Ware i,t could have been three brothers, but no clue to their birthplace or parents in the area.  Eventually, two years ago, he had found a family of a blacksmith in Finchingfield that contained thee brothers who fitted exactly with those in Hertfordshire.  But he had not been able to find any firm evidence.  Just before he had set out for the meeting, he looked at some distant DNA matches from a recent test and found a match with another in the Finchingfield family.  The Widford wall was finally flattened.

John Young

ESFH 6399

October 2019 – Essex Family & Local History Online by Eric Probert

Eric took us on a tour of websites that are useful to family historians researching their ancestors in Essex and how they lived.Some of these sites were Essex specific but many were general with information relevant to other counties.

He started with ‘Curious Fox’,, which provides a message board, organised by place and surname, where users can post questions and read the answers, not only of their own posts but of others with similar interests.

Much useful information about our county and relevant genealogical sources can be found on ‘GENUKI’, at

For the general history of the county, the place to go is the ‘Victoria County History’ at where some of the Essex volumes can be read on line.The ‘History House of Essex’ at also has Essex material.

For Parish Registers, as well our own transcriptions available to all members at, ‘Ancestry’,, ‘Find My Past’,, and ‘Family Search’,, all have Essex register transcriptions.

Register images can be viewed on the Essex Record Office site, ‘Essex Ancestors’ (formerly SEAX) at is free to use in the ERO Search Room but on subscription outside.Other sites with Essex transcriptions include ‘UK Parish Registers’, and ‘FreeREG’ at

Trade Directories are always worth looking at.See the site run by Leicester University at are available on the Ancestry site.

The British Newspaper Archive at has a growing catalogue, Find My Past provide access to many titles.

‘Deceased Online’, details of some Essex Burials and Cremations at municipal sites.

And don’t forget the many local groups, listed on the ‘Essex Local History Societies’ site at include, for example, ‘Takeley Local History Society’, and ‘Stock Village History’ at

Other useful sites include ‘Photos of Essex Churches’ at, ‘Visit Historic Essex’ at and ‘Essex Maps, Docs & Pictures’ at

And never forget to use your favourite search engine, such as ‘Google’ at

John Young 

ESFH 6399

September 2019 – West Essex Branch AGM

The Branch AGM , chaired by John Young on behalf of the Executive, received the Chairman’s Report that included mention of the contribution made by members from the Branch at the ‘Family Tree – Live’ exhibition at Alexandra Palace.  The Treasurer reported on the Branch accounts, which were approved.  The election of Officers returned the same individuals, Elizabeth Cox, Chairman, Sue Spiller, Secretary and Val Jones, Treasurer with Ann Jones and Mark Cracknell as Committee members.

September 2019 – The New River by Richard Thomas

Richard ‘s talk, immediately following the AGM, described the construction of a channel from Chadwell Springs, near Ware in Hertfordshire to the round pond at Islington, in the early 17th century to supply fresh water to London. In early times, London drew its water supply from the Thames.As early as the 13th century the first elm pipes were laid from the River Tyburn at Hampstead to the City.Fresh water was then sold to those who could afford it.By Elizabethan times the population was rapidly rising and the Thames was becoming increasingly polluted by sewage.A plan was put forward by Edmund Colthurst, to build a new supply from springs 20 miles to the north of the city.This would consist of a channel, three feet deep and six foot wide, approximately following the 100ft contour, with a very shallow fall.

It was supported by Queen Elizabeth 1 however construction did not start until 1605, after a Charter was approved by Charles I.It was to be built at the expense of Colthurst.Work stopped in 1606 as the money ran out.The project restarted in 1609 when Hugh Myddelton obtained new finance which enabled it to be completed, with a wider channel, by 1613.

Richard took us on a journey down the original 40 miles of the route, including loops that had to be included to follow the contour.Many of these were gradually removed by the construction of an aqueduct or banking to maintain the levels.He described the method and progress of the construction and the features, such as gauges to regulate the flow and pumping stations to supplement the supply along the way. The talk was superbly illustrated by clear maps, engravings and photographs that showed some of the changes that have occurred over the years.

Although it is no longer; ’new’ and has never been a ‘river’, it still brings water as far as the reservoirs at Stoke Newington, now a nature reserve and sailing centre.The adjacent gothic pumping station has been converted to a leisure facility, including climbing walls.The New River remains a wonderful resource for North London.

John Young

ESFH 6399

August 2019 - Philately Can Get You Somewhere by Fred Feather

We did not know what to expect when Fred announced that he wanted to change his planned talk on Stow Maries Airfield to one with a rather enigmatic title. In the event he entertained us with two separate stories.

The first concerned the experience of the father of one of our members from Southend in the Great War.  He was Sidney Charles (Nobby) Clark, who had joined the Navy.  In 1914 he found himself with an R.N.V.R. Infantry Division, as a member of the Collingwood battalion.  At the beginning of the War he was deployed to Antwerp and was promptly taken prisoner. He was sent to a camp at Doberitz.  At first, the facilities were not good, but the prisoners worked together to improve their accommodation, including the building of a camp theatre. Sidney joined a group to form a concert party to entertain their comrades. What was remarkable was that his family at home received, by post, regular reports of his activities. These included not only letters but flyers and programmes of the shows and many photographs.  These all showed the company as well fed, well dressed men, in a variety of elaborate costumes.  It seems that the photographs were possibly taken by their guards and allowed to be sent as a public relations propaganda exercise.

After explaining that his great-grandmother’s niece was the first wife of Stanley Gibbons, the stamp dealer, he went on to talk about a recent enquiry his wife had received from a philatelist in Sweden. This man had bought a postcard from John Everett, whose copies of black and white Essex postcards are now being sold through ESFH by Colleen Devenish.He was giving a talk three days later. The postcard was off the funeral procession of a German soldier in Southend in 1915.  Prisoners had been disembarked for it, from Cunard liners off Southend Pier.The prisoners were bound for prison camps all over England. He was asking for details of the gravestone of a German hussar, who died aboard a liner, the Ivernia, off the pier.  It turned out that the wartime Germans buried in this country were, in 1962, removed to a consolidated German war cemetery at Cannock Chase in Staffordshire. Fred showed us newspaper photographs of the military funeral that the dead man had been given in Southend. Newspaper reports, backed by his death certificate, showed that he had died from food poisoning brought about by eating a sausage in a food parcel sent from Germany by his parents.  Hopefully his parents never found out the cause of his death. The Swedish stamp collector got a reply for his talk, given three days later.  A more detailed account of this story can be found in the August 2019 edition of The Essex Family Historian.

All in all, a thoroughly entertaining talk enjoyed by everyone.

John Young 

ESFH 6399

July 2019 – Our Newspaper Heritage by Meryl Catty

Meryl started her presentation with the publication of the first news sheets in the early seventeenth century. The number of tittles increased during the Civil War culminating with reports of the execution of Charles I.‘The London Gazette’ appeared which became to source of official government news that still operates today as ‘The Gazette’.It contains not only news of government business but engagements of the Royal Family, Honours and Notices of Insolvency.

By the beginning of the eighteenth century, the government were worried by the opposition of some of the publications.A flat rate stamp duty was imposed in 1712 that turned out to be counterproductive as it encouraged larger editions. It was not until the 1850s that it was finally abolished.Familiar titles go back to the eighteenth century with ‘The Daily Telegraph’ first appearing in 1780,’The Times’ in 1785 and ‘The Observer’ in 1792.

Newspapers contained reports on a variety of subject as well as adverts giving an insight to social conditions.Court reports on a wide range of cases, both criminal and civil, at Assizes and Quarter Session are often very detailed.The Police Gazette contains detail of prisoners.Wedding and funeral reports often gave detailed lists of those present and their family relationships.Before the twentieth century, dense text in small font without headlines made stories more difficult to pick out.Headlines, in larger font, and photographs now make things easier.

Many early newspapers may be accessed on line.The British Newspaper Archive at and through Find My Past, papers are usually available at County Record Offices.

John Young

ESFH 6399

June 2019 – Hertfordshire Militia Lists by Janet Pearson

Janet opened by setting the scene by describing the situation in the country in the second half of the eighteenth century following the revolution in France and the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte.  England expected an invasion by French forces and took steps to prepare for that eventuality.

Forts were built on the east coast and surveys were made of the availability of bread and wagons across the country.  The ERO holds the results for Essex.  In particular, each parish constable was required to make a list of all able bodied men, aged between 18 and 45, who could be called up to serve in the Militia, to supplement the regular army in homeland operations.  When men were needed, a ballot was held to select from the list.  During service, families were supported by the parish so men with large families were excused.

Conscripted Militias did not serve in their own locality but were sent anywhere in England.This resulted in relationships and marriages in unexpected places that means that ‘missing’ births can be found by use of the militia records that record the location of the units.

Militia lists were completed, at least annually, in all parts of the country.  The most complete set that survives in is Hertfordshire.  These have been transcribed, originally publishes in a series of booklets, now available on a CD. The lists include dependents with the number of children increasing as the families grew. The lists are a very useful source for family historians.

John Young 6399

May 2019 – Using the ESFH Website by Elizabeth Cox

Unfortunately, our advertised speaker, Meryl Catty, was unwell and unable to attend.We wish her a speedy recovery and hope that we will be able to reschedule her talk later in the year.

To fill the gap, we brought forward the Members’ Question Time session planned for July.We were aware that a number of members were not putting the Members’ Area of our Society website to full use so Elizabeth took us through the facilities available there.

She started with the public pages then concentrated on the Members’ Area, demonstrating how to proceed if a password is forgotten.She stressed the importance of using the Members’ Profile page to update contact details, to set preferred methods of communication and to change your password.She discussed all the pages including inputting Surname Interests, searching the Genealogical Database and the useful ability to read a variety of Journals from other Societies.

John Young 6399

April 2019 The Compleat Parish Officer by Sarah Doig

The Compleat Parish Officer was not only the title of this Harlow lecture, but also the title of a book, introduced to us by Sarah Doig.It was published in the eighteenth century and was a legal publication for the people with parish responsibilities. Written by Giles Jacob (1686-1744) he condensed the legislation that parish officials had to adhere to.There were 21 editions published between 1738 and 1747 and it is still available today. Since Elizabethan days, selected by their peers, local people had been responsible for the running of their parish covering ecclesiastical and civil matters which affected many aspects of the lives of parishioners.

Sarah explained in detail four of the main local roles: - church warden, overseer of the poor, the parish or petty constable (or headborough) and the highways surveyor.All these positions were held by local people often on a rota basis.For each post she told us about the history of the role, how the officers were selected, their extensive duties and the finances surrounding the position.

Under the chairmanship of the incumbent regular vestry meetings took place and the records of their meetings are usually called Vestry Minutes and Churchwarden’s Accounts.Both sets of records are of value to family historians as they mention persons to whom payments were made, or from whom money was received for the upkeep of the buildings, purchases of commodities, payments of rates and other business that will establish informative facts about particular parishioners. The records of the overseers of the poor are of particular value to family historians as one can learn about the fate of individuals.Constables’ accounts dating from 1660s were placed before the vestry meeting and local magistrate at the end of each year.The signed highways accounts recorded outlay on road and repairs and moneys received to hire substitutes in place of parishioners liable for annual free statutory labour however few account books survive.

The parochial documents used to be kept by the parish authorities in the parish chest which was a strong wooden box which also contained the alms for the poor, the church silver and the parish records.It was often kept in the church building.

Most parish records these days have been deposited in the county record office in which the parish is located.The survival of parish chest documents is spasmodic as it depended on location, and, as they were compiled by a succession of annual officers of varying education, literacy and conscientiousness of individuals.Sarah illustrated her talk throughout with appropriate graphical illustrations which really brought her talk to life.It was a thoroughly professional presentation and if she speaks at any of our other branches I would strongly recommend members to attend.

Colleen Devenish (ESFH 6279)

March 2019 – Oral History – Harlow New Town by Sue Spiller

Sue explained how the Independent Cinema Office (ICO) last year received a Heritage Lottery Grant for a project called NEW TOWNS-OUR TOWNS - STORIES ON SCREEN.  They have recruited volunteers in four new towns to show audiences selections of rarely seen archive film from before the start of the new town, the new town growing and then finishing with a clip of an interview with Sir Frederick Gibberd and then some town teenagers in the 80s.

Sue is one of the volunteers and she introduced a series of these film clips.  She invited the audience, which included a number of visitors who were interested in local history, to interject with comments and identification of the participants.Sue learned of the identity of several of the people interviewed in the films.

Several members, some of whom had lived in Harlow since the 1950s, volunteered to be interviewed and filmed as a contribution to the project.

John Young 6399

February 2019 –Female Convicts by Ken Griffin

Ken has compiled an extensive database containing the details of prison records of convicts during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.  It includes their trial, prison record and, where appropriate, transportation.

He showed extracts of his records containing details of Essex women.  He related details of some of the cases involving various crimes including larceny, arson and child killing.

John Young 6399

January 2019 Annie Besant and the Match Girls Strike by Jeff Page

This famous strike was caused by the poor working conditions in the Bryant & May match factory in Fairfield Road, Bow. The match girls had to produce 144 boxes of matches in an hour and had to suffer poor working conditions, including fourteen-hours working per day, poor pay, excessive fines and the severe health complications of working with white phosphorous, such as "phossy jaw".

The strike was sparked by the dismissal of one of the workers on or about 2 July 1888. The strikers approached Annie Besant, British social reformer, to help in their fight to get improved conditions by helping to set up a union. Their fight was successful.

Elizabeth Cox 2192

December 2018 - Christmas Quiz with Elizabeth Cox

The quiz, with a Christmas bias, compiled by the Committee, was hosted by Elizabeth.  The variety of the questions was wide.  Everyone learned something new,  We concluded with mince pies with our tea.

John Young 6399

November 2018 –The Home Front by Members of ESFH

Members were invited to make short presentations on their family’s involvement on the Home Front in either World War.

Jean Broom was at primary school in Chingford at the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939. She was evacuated quickly, along with her sister and 54 classmates.They were taken on a red double decked bus to Manningtree in North East Essex. By Christmas, her parents had brought her home, where they relied on their Anderson Shelter, which they shared with neighbours, during air raids.

Later in the war, when at Walthamstow High School, she experienced V1 and V2 attacks.

Jean Wright told us of her family’s experience living only 6 miles from Bletchley Park.

Her mother was in service near Stony Stratford and worked for Lady Penryn.  Jean’s parents married my Father by Special Licence aged 19 and went on to work in the saw mill at the Wolverton Railway Works, where there were about 4000 workers.

Her grandmother had lodgers who worked at Bletchley Park. At the time, the family, of course, had no idea of the significance of the operation at Bletchley.

John Young talked about his own very earliest memory.  He was living in Waltham Cross when a few days before his third birthday in January 1945, a V2 landed on a Brush Factory, only about 300 metres from his house. The explosion was in the direction of his grandparents’ house   So his mother left John with a neighbour to check on her parents. They lived on the other side of the impact.  His granddad came in the opposite direction.John still has an image of his grandad arriving at the kitchen door to find him sitting on Mrs Briden’s lap in front of her black range.

His mother’s sister was worked at the Brush Factory at the time and her brother was in a foundry next door.  Fortunately, neither was injured.  It must have been a very traumatic day for the family that resulted in an extremely early memory for John.

Jo West was also an evacuee.  She was a pupil at Wilberforce School in Queens Park and in 1939 was evacuated to Forest Row, near Ashdown Forest in Sussex.  She stayed with Mr & Mrs Billings and I remembers wild strawberries and the village school.Later she moved to another family at Beacon Hill where her school was shared between evacuees and local children, who attended in the mornings and visitors in the afternoon.

In the summer, she was back in London seeing dog fights in the sky above.Later she had a period in school in Oxford.

John Young 6399

October 2018 –DNA for Family Historians by Peter Calver

On a previous visit, Peter Calver described his Lost Cousins web site  This time, he explained how DNA analysis can help expand our knowledge of our families.

DNA examination does not replace traditional record based research.It can, however, be a very useful extra tool to fill gaps and resolve questions left by the records.

Three types of analysis are available.Y chromosome testing looks at the direct male line whilst mitochondrial DNA tells us about the female line.  Both techniques can take us back through many generations.

There at the 22 pairs of chromosomes, the autosomes, that do not relate to gender.  Examination of these, Autosomal Analysis. can give us information about all ancestors but only back to a maximum of about five or six generations.

Peter described how he had used his own DNA, in conjunction with that of a distant cousin, to confirm the identity of one of his ancestors.  He referred us to his ‘Master Class’, describing his method, available through the Lost Cousins web site at

He pointed out that the bigger the DNA results database, the more useful the individual result becomes.  There are a wide range of companies offering testing, all using similar techniques. Many of these only have small data sets, limiting their usefulness.  By far the biggest database is held by Ancestry. This gives a greater chance of finding useful matches.

John Young 6399

September 2018 - And so the War Ends by Nick Taylor & John Bowden

John and Nick have been engaged on a four year project to promote the remembrance of Harlow men who lost their lives in the Great War from 1914.  The project has been funded by Harlow District Council, a number of local organisations and donations.

This was a return visit by Nick and John after their presentation last year on the centenary of the Battle of Passchendaele.  This time they took us through the final year of the war

They described the German offensive in March, which began with an enormous bombardment.  It succeeded in moving the front 43 miles to the west.  The advance was finally halted as supply lines became stretched.  An even bigger counter offensive was launched in August. This involved significant numbers of American troops who were at last available, together with a large numbers the newly introduced tanks.  Not only were the earlier losses regained but significant breaks in the German lines were achieved. The allies were then able to advance into open country, taking large numbers of prisoners. The Armistice quickly followed in November 1918.

The down side of the arrival of the American troops was that it is believed that they brought with them to Europe, the flu virus that spread throughout the continent and to the rest of the world.  Because the outbreak was particularly severe in Spain, it became known as ‘Spanish Flu’.  Eventually it killed even more people than had died in the hostilities.

During the last four years, the group has researched the lives of the Harlow casualties. The results have published in a book that is available to buy.  Copies will be given to every school in the district.  The talk was supported by a number of pull up banners describing the project that will be on show at a variety of locations round the town in the coming months.

John Young 6399

August 2018 –Using Family History Websites by Elizabeth Cox

Elizabeth set out to demonstrate the scope of two useful websites.  Both ‘The Genealogist; and ‘Forces War Records are subscription sites.  Both offer a range of subscription levels, for different time periods and different ranges of records.

She began with ‘Forces War Records’ where she used example from her own family to demonstrate how records are displayed.  She showed us the Great War record of her grandfather, including images of the medals he was awarded.  She was able to show us the actual medals to validate the website.

The site holds records from major conflicts back to Waterloo. We saw the record of Elizabeth’s ancestor, who was at Waterloo and one of another member who was in India at the time of the Mutiny.

Turning to ‘The Genealogist’, this site has the usual birth, marriage death and census records together with a number of record sets that are not available on other sites.  These include Non-conformist Registers, School, College and University Records, Criminal Registers and Lloyd George Land Tax Records.  The latter provide valuable information on the value and ownership of land.

We were all reminded that, like other websites, content is continually being added. It is well worth checking all sites from time to time, even if you have not found them useful in earlier years

John Young 6399

July 2018 –Maps for Family Historians by Charlie Mead

Charlie went through a variety of maps that we could use to get information about where our ancestors lived and worked and how streets changed names.  He certainly gave us enough facts to re-look at old maps of towns, villages, estates, military, tithe and even tube maps.  Must get the old atlas down off the shelf!

Elizabeth Cox 2192

June 2018 –Family Search Website Update by Steve Manning

We welcomed back Steve Manning who firstly told us about the Family Tree Live event to be held at Alexandra Palace in North London on 26 - 27 April 2019, please make a note of the date in your diary.

Afterwards he told us about the new web site which has been set up to provide a free learning research and training centre which they say makes family history easier, more efficient and enjoyable.

It covers various web sites, Family Search, Ancestry, My Heritage and Find My Past, where you can find out how to use these sites. There are also sections on training, activities an area which gives advice on getting other family members of all ages interested in the hobby we all love, Blogs and other Social Media websites, different faiths web sites, and Countries.

If you look at the Countries sections, under England there are links for all the counties including Essex, where I looked at what I could find about our county. There are links to web sites including Archives, free on line books, what Essex records are on FMP, local and county societies with local & FH connections, Essex parish information and other links to information.

Also if you get asked a question about FH and you want to give help in another language, there is a link on the web site to translate the page into one of 103 other languages e.g.O Guia de História da Família which is Portuguese so it can help people worldwide.

So I recommend you dip into the web site as it has links to so many other web sites which will help us all.

Elizabeth Cox 2192

May 2018 -The Poor Child's Friend - Joseph Lancaster’s Education Revolution by Andy Gibbs

Our speaker, from the British Schools Museum @ Hitchin, brought to our notice an important educational reformer.  Joseph Lancaster was very well known and celebrated in his own time but is now largely forgotten.  He was born in 1778 into the family of a shopkeeper in Southwark.  As a young man he was appalled by the plight of the children in poverty.  He believed that every child, regardless of gender or means, should be given a basic non-sectarian education.

He opened his first school in Southwark in 1798, using the monitorial system.  This used one teacher to teach a large number of pupils at one time,  This was achieved by selecting the most able children, imparting knowledge for them to pass on to their peers in small groups.  The teaching was of basic reading, writing and ‘reckoning’, learnt by rote.

Soon similar schools were opened across the country and abroad.  They became administered by the British and Foreign Schools Society, set up to promote Lancaster’s ideas.  They became known as ‘British Schools’.  Their popularity became a threat to the Church of England, who, with greater resources, reacted by setting up their own network of ‘National Schools’, based on the teaching of religion.

After disagreement with the Society he founded, he spent the latter years in the United States, where a number of his schools were operating.  He died there, in 1838.

The one remaining examples of a British School remains in Hitchin, Hertfordshire, where it is run as the interactive ‘British Schools Museum’.

John Young 6399

April 2018British Army Medals – their part in Family History Research with John Sly

John has been the Editor of several specialist journals on medals. He was the first Editor of ‘Ancestors’, the family history magazine published by the Public Record Office, (now known as TNA) He is a member of ESFH and has contributed several articles to The Historian. For readers interested in Hatfield Broad Oak (also known as Hatfield Regis) in the Essex parish of Uttlesford John has published a war memorial book entitled: The War Memorials of Hatfield Regis published by Hatfield Regis Local History Society 2014, ISBN-13-978-873669-12-9 cost £5. In 2016 he published an addendum entitled The Mis-remembered Men (those men of the locality not on the appropriate war memorials) it costs £1

His talk focused on the feature of campaign and gallantry medals that distinguishes them from other collectable objects. Almost all such medals are unique as they are engraved with the name of the recipient. The name can be found on the rim of circular medals and on the reverse of stars. This feature means that medals are an important resource for Family Historians.

Every named medal presents an opportunity to find out exactly where the individual served. Often details of their service can be found in the military records that exist relating to particular campaigns. These may be seen at the National Archive or in the relevant Regimental museum.

John discussed a number of individuals from West Essex who had served in campaigns from the early nineteenth century including the Peninsular War, India, the Crimea and South Africa. He had, not only consulted the military records but the usual Census and BMD records to build up a picture of their lives and their families.

John brought some sample medals to show us. Another member added a General Service Medal awarded to one of her ancestors for his service in a number of battles in the Peninsular War.

John Young 6399

March 2018 - Flames across Essex by Michael Holland

Our speaker this month, Michael Holland, is a social historian, a graduate and post graduate of the Open University.  He has been involved in collaborative nationwide research projects on subjects such as the impact of the Swing Riots and latterly, the impact of cholera.  His talk to our branch drew on his research but covered the whole period from 1795 to late Victorian times.

At the beginning of the period, agricultural labourers had no right of representation and could only take their grievances to the local, often unsympathetic Justice of the Peace. Throughout the period, dissatisfaction with their living and working conditions resulted in a continuing level of civil disturbance. This could range from insulting letters to machine breaking and arson.

In Essex, arson was widespread, often by means of secreting hot coals inside haystacks.  This gave a time interval to allow the escape of the perpetrator before the whole stack ignited.

Michael presented a time line of the incidence of disturbances. It showed a peak at around 1800 provoked by the famine resulting from the Napoleonic Wars and another at about 1816, from the Bread or Blood Riots that protested against high bread prices. The highest level of disturbance was during the widespread anti-mechanisation Swing Riots of 1830. The level stayed relatively high for the next 20 years, including peaks coinciding with the Poor Law Acts of 1834 and 1844.

Michael gave examples of individuals who were convicted of multiple illegal acts, such as Abraham Rayner of Halstead. Punishments included transportation and hanging.

Disturbances faded away after the Representation of the Peoples Act in 1884, which gave the vote to any man paying rent of more the £10 per annum. and the development of Trades Unions.

John Young 6399

February 2018 The Reason why – the creation of Islington with Bill Pearman

Bill took us back to the time when the City of London was the port and finance centre, and the separate City of Westminster was the seat of government and the King. Islington was a village in the countryside to the north of the cities. It had a strategic importance as it sat astride the main route to the north. Upper Street, in modern Islington is still designated as the AI, the Great North Road.

The route was used by drovers, particularly moving livestock into London. On their return, with cash, they became a target for thieves with Islington gaining a reputation for crime.

Early in the 17 th century, the New River was completed, terminating at Sadler’s Wells, to bring freshwater from the springs at Amwell, Hertfordshire for distribution into the City.

As London expanded, the Caledonian Market was established, where the livestock were slaughtered and processed, with only the meat going on to Smithfield. The by products supported a proliferation of light industry.

During the Victorian period, there was a massive proliferation of housing, initially for the better off. In some places, over production required large houses to be split for multi-occupation and let to poorer people. One example was ‘Campbell Bank’, known at one time in the early twentieth century as the ‘worst street in London’.

At this time, the state of the art prison at Pentonville was built followed by Holloway for women prisoners.

Collins Music Hall and later, the Finsbury Park Astoria together with a variety of smaller pub venues, Islington became a magnet for national entertainment stars from Marie Lloyd and Vesta Tilley to the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.

Bill illustrated his talks with a variety of maps and photos of notable features as well as anecdotes of his own early years in the area.

John Young


January 2018More Harlow Families with Stan Newens

Following a very popular talk last year, Stan, former MP, MEP and local historian of renown, gave us an account of several more families with significant Harlow connections.

Stan began with the BARNARD family who had farmed in West Essex since the seventeenth century. Lindsell Hall, Harlowbury, New Hall and Marigolds are all recorded as Barnard residences. John Barnard, b 1765, rented Harlow Mill and became associated with another miller, George Fawbert at Waltham Cross. John became the Executor of George’s will, his estate left for charitable purposes. He used the bequest to establish the Fawbert & Barnard Schools in Harlow and Sawbridgeworth.

We then heard about Thomas Chaplin, farmer at Hubbards Hall, whose grandson Thomas founded Chaplin’s Brewery in Fore Street. His daughter Sarah Elizabeth married the Baptist Minister, Frederick Edwards, who became involved with the brewery.

Next was person of note was another Baptist Minister who wrote an influential collection of Essays on Political Philosophy. The Reverend Thomas Finch examined our democratic processes in the nineteenth century.

The Whittaker family also had strong Baptist connections and links with the Collins family of the wheelwright who established the Cycle Collection, now at Harlow Museum.

Field Marshall Evelyn Wood only came to Harlow after retiring from a distinguished military career. This began as a sixteen year old at Inkermann in the Crimea before taking him to India during the Mutiny. Here he was awarded a Victoria Cross. Later he served in South Africa. His sister had a long relationship with Charles Parnell, the Irish republican leader in the nineteenth century.

Finally, Stan discussed the Whittaker family and their link with the Gould line. This family provided another Baptist Minister as well as corn merchant.

Stan noted that there were a significant number of people from the small village of Harlow who had made an impact on the national stage.

John Young 6399

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