WEST ESSEX BRANCH - HARLOW
REPORTS OF MEETINGS
5 June 2021
Ware Through Time
by Diane Perkins
As a result of a change to the published programme we were treated to a talk regarding the history of Ware by Diane Perkins, who has connections with the local Ware Museum.
She started by telling us that there had been human activity in the area since Mesolithic times and how Ware was thought to be one of the oldest inhabited areas in the UK.
She progressed with facts about Ware in the historical periods of the Iron Age, coming of the Romans, then the Saxons, and later periods. She talked about the artefacts that had been found in the area especially those that had been identified by the late Dr Clive Partridge, a prominent archaeologist.
Diane then proceeded to talk about the New River, and how it supplied water to London.Today it is possible to walk the whole length of it and arrive in North London.
Next, Diane took us on a guided walk around part of the town pointing out places of interest and areas that had been destroyed by redevelopment.She also mentioned some of the items which have made Ware famous over the years including, in the museum, the Great Bed of Ware, which is on permanent loan from the V & A in London, the poetry of the Quaker John Scott and the ancient Grotto.We also learnt about the Maltings of Ware, the first one being recorded in 1307.There is book published by local historian David Perman called The Malt Houses of Ware.A copy can be obtained from the museum shop.
This talk was an eye opener for me as when I worked in Hertford (a mere 5 miles away) I used to think of Ware as a ‘poor cousin’ of Hertford however after listening to Diane I now have a different perspective on the town and will be visiting their museum later this year.
Summarised by Colleen Devenish
6 March 2021
by Graham Sutherland
The location and route of the Eleanor Crosses was the basis of Graham’s talk which he elaborated with anecdotes of other historic happenings near each location accompanied by relevant photographs.
He began his lecture by giving us a factual background of Eleanor and her husband and where they were positioned in the hierarchy of the English mediaeval royal family.
An arranged marriage between Eleanor of Castile at the age of 12 and the 15 year old Prince Edward (later Edward I) in 1254 acted as an alliance between Castile and England.The marriage resulted in many children over 30 years, some reports declare 14 others 16, including one of their offspring who would become Edward II.
In 1290, whilst the royal pair were travelling northwards, the party stopped at Harby in Northamptonshire where Eleanor died on 28th November, aged 49. Edward, who was devastated by her death, wanted his wife to be buried at Westminster Abbey in London so embarked on a 21-say funeral possession.
He commissioned commemorative memorials for his dead wife including 12 stone carved ornate crosses at each place her body rested overnight. It appears that parts of her body were left at various locations and ultimately her heart buried in Westminster.
Subsequently Edward I wrote in a letter to Abbot of Cluny on 4th January 1291 “Pray for our consort who in life we loved dearly and, dead, we do not cease to love”
From Harby the overnight stops on the way south included Lincoln, Grantham, Stamford, Geddington, Hardingstone, Stoney Stratford, Woburn, Dunstable, St Albans, Waltham, Cheapside and Charing Cross - the latter two places being in London.
Graham also informed us of the history of each cross along the way.This is what the Historic England website has to say about the crosses:-
“Of the 12 Eleanor crosses erected at the end of the 13th century only three still stand. The cross at Northampton is the only surviving one which included statuary by the royal sculptor William of Ireland, who worked on four other Eleanor crosses which have since been destroyed. In its architectural and sculptural detail it is a rare and well documented example of medieval stone carving of the highest quality. Recent careful conservation of the stonework has resulted in the preservation of sculptural detail in good condition. The cross is adjacent to the site of the battle of Northampton of 1460 which is included in the Register of Battlefields. The monument has been the subject of art-historical research and is thus well understood”.
Graham told us many anecdotal stories about the stop over places and surrounding villages including the tale of Dr William Dodd, who was the last person convicted of forgery to be hanged; the murder of Minnie Alice Bonati by John Robinson in 1927; Daniel Lambert born 1779 who died weighing 52 stones and Alfred Arthur Rowse who was a British murderer, known as the Blazing Car Murderer, who was convicted and hanged at Bedford Gaol in 1931 for the murder of an unknown man.As to which story is connected to which place – over to you readers!
Report by Colleen Devenish (ESFH 6279)
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