Essex Society for Family History

Family History Federation Member

Registered Charity No 290552

Essex Society for Family History

Family History Federation Member

Registered Charity No 290552



The life and times of Henry VIII

By Tony Harris

4th November 2023

Our November meeting saw a substantial audience present including the Society’s Chairman, Vice Chairman and Secretary plus two regulars who enjoy their day out from Colchester to Westcliff by bus. What were they all expecting? The reported speaker was “King Henry VIII” but how he would appear was not entirely clear. We worried that we had not anticipated his method of travel and had not arranged stabling! It was a relief when he came in the person of Tony Harris. Phew!

A splendid entrance in full costume, and the audience all rose to welcome “His Majesty”. We noticed bowed heads, perhaps there was a curtsey or two. Off he went at full pelt and entertained us for an hour or so.

Those of us who thought we knew a little of Tudor History were in for a lesson. We were shown history as it happened with many facts, great humour and a plethora of surprises. As the second son of King Henry VII, he was the “spare” and his brother Arthur’s early death put him on a lifetime path to get himself a male heir. However Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn only provided him with daughters. His mistress Betsy Blount gave him an illegitimate son, Henry FitzRoy. His great love was Jane Seymour who died young but provided him with the longed-for son, the future King Edward VI. She suffered the “birth fever” which struck half the mothers of the time. Her son was eleven days old. She was his “true Tudor queen” and was the only one of his wives to be buried at Windsor, where he joined her when his time came.

We went away with memories of the irascible ruler’s love-life, his political moves, injuries whilst jousting. Intimate details of dresses, Anne Boleyn’s “four months pregnant” wedding dress, women’s hair styles. (They had already been married in Calais, which was part of the kingdom.)

We learned of the length of Anne of Cleve's nose: Holbein painted her from the front and Henry was displeased and our speaker described her profile as that of the “only German speaking eagle.” He quickly paid her off, to retire to the English countryside. As a Duchess! As she had been betrothed to the Duke of Lorraine the marriage could be annulled.

Catherine Howard was just seventeen years old, 4 feet 11 inches tall and livened up his old age before she too was offered one of his “merciful” executions.

Katherine Parr, his last wife, tended his medical problems and was a wise councillor. She persuaded him to put his daughters Mary and Elizabeth into the “line of succession” and thus provided the country with its two first queens. A political innovation!

Altogether Tony left us entertained, instructed, and grateful for his attendance. Perhaps we might see him in the future in another role. Tumultuous and deserved applause.
Summarised by Heather Feather ESFH 366

Chalkwell Park and its Environs

by Simon Deacon

7th October 2023

Our October speaker, Simon Deacon, is a local surveyor, with family connections to the City. His love of local history had come from his father who left a large collection of local photographs and postcards. Some 45 members and guests listened to his clear description of the area, originally part of the ancient borough of Milton but now as Chalkwell an area between Westcliff and Leigh on Sea. Much of the land was gradually recovered from the estuary on the southern border and developed as a housing estate with a substantial park area. He illustrated his talk with pictures of the area, both old and new.

Simon told us of the well known and celebrity residents of the area. Trevor Bailey, the Essex and England cricket captain. Barrington Pheloung, composer/musician who composed the TV theme music for “Morse” and “Lewis,” John Lloyd, a Tennis player, who started playing at Westcliff Hard Court Lawn Tennis Club behind The Ridgeway, Philip Latham, film and TV Actor, Dominic Wood TV magician and personality, known from “Dick and Dom,” Benjamin Grosvenor, an international concert pianist, David Choyce, celebrated ophthalmic optician, developer of artificial lens implantation and Sir David Amess MP.

The beach area to the east of the railway station was known as Joscelyne’s Beach and had belonged to the Joscelyne family. (The late Arthur Joscelyne was an early member of the Society) There visitors could enjoy the Jolly Boys or a Punch and Judy show.

We were intrigued with such snippets as the story of how, during World War 2, the railway bridge in Chalkwell Avenue was mined so that any potential German invaders would not be able to reach the easier routes to London. Were the mines ever removed? Chalkwell Park was much visited area and at different times contained a zoo, and a Test Match pitch, where England’s cricket team hosted the Australians. Much loved by children.

There are unobtrusive markers designating an Eruv for the benefit if the local Jewish residents.

The gateway to the park was designed by the father of one of our members, Shirley Rowe.

Simon finished his talk with a short video of the history of Chalkwell Hall in Chalkwell Park. The present building is the third and was built in 1830. It is now used as an art centre by METAL The video was narrated by Rachel Lichtenstein, a local artist and archivist and she has also written a booklet of the history. (I taught Rachel when she was seven years old and knew sh would go far!)

A well organised and delivered talk. Thank you Simon
Summarised by Heather Feather ESFH 366


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