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Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Next Event: Looking Forward to the Morant Lecture. 20 March 2015

Looking forward to the Morant Lecture 2015.
The Disney Family and The Hyde, Ingatestone

Professor David Gill gives this year’s Morant Lecture at Ingatestone Parish Church, on the subject of ‘The Wonderful World of Disney: Collecting Classical Antiquity’. 

The Disney family, who are not related to the famous Walt Disney – that is a Mickey Mouse story - hailed from Norton Disney a very small village in Lincolnshire not far from Newark.

Our account begins with the Revd. Dr. John Disney (1746-1816), a Unitarian minister, who in September 1804 inherited the estate of Thomas Brand Hollis at The Hyde, Ingatestone, and the collection of antiquities housed there, which had been formed by Thomas Brand Hollis and Thomas Brand (1719-1774) in Italy between 1748 and 1753.  Hollis died childless.  Both Disney and Hollis were antiquarian friends and in fitting tribute he had erected a monument to his benefactor in Ingatestone Church.  (There are memorials to the Petre family in the church which can also be viewed on the night of the lecture.)

On the death of the Reverend, on 26th December 1816, John Disney, his eldest son, succeeded to the estate.  Disney added to the collection, and devoted much of his time to its study, and to other work on Archaeology and antiquities generally. His interests naturally led him to Rome, where his bust was executed by Raimondo Trentanore (1792-1832) in 1827, the year of Disney's return to England. In April 1850 he gave 83 marbles from his collection to the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, of which a number are displayed and regarded as “the museum’s corpus of classical sculpture”.  In the next year endowed a chair in Archaeology at the University, which still bears his name: “the first tentative steps towards establishing the subject as an academic discipline”, Micheal Leach wrote. 

In 1852, on the foundation of the Essex Archaeological Society, Disney became its first President, serving until the  AGM in August 1855, when he relinquished his post which he felt unable to continue, being in his 77th year.  Perhaps inevitably, the inaugural lecture ('On Archaeology') given to the Society on 14th December 1852, was by John Howard Marsden BD (1803-1891), 'Disney Professor of Cambridge, and Rector of Great Oakley'. Marsden was one of 16 Vice-Presidents the Society elected that day.  Besides his antiquarian pursuits Disney also practiced as a lawyer, and unsuccessfully contested the Parliamentary seats of Harwich in 1832, and North Essex in 1835.

John Disney is regarded as an important archaeologist of the nineteenth century.  Not only was he a founder of the Essex Society for Archaeology and History but was also instrumental in the creation of the Museum at Chelmsford. 

The Disney family’s monument is a large square tomb with urn and tall pillar to the north side of the churchyard of nearby Fryerning Church where Revd John, his eldest son, John and other family members are interred.  In the churches at Ingatestone and Blackmore is an identical memorial to the Revd’s second son, Edgar, who succeeded John and who died in 1881.  The remainder of the Disney family antiquities were auctioned in 1884/85.

The Hyde is first mentioned in 1624, but may date back to 1590, and was greatly remodelled by Timothy Brand (d.1734) in 1719.  After the Disney’s occupation, the house later became a school for day pupils and boarders.  Fifty years ago (in 1965) the previous home of John Disney was badly damaged in a fire deliberately started by the school cook, Mrs Ligo, who later served a custodial sentence for arson.

Boyden, Peter. Library Corner. From ‘Essex Archaeological News No 55, Spring 1976’ (now available digitally)
Brereton, Graham. Thomas Brand Hollis and the Disneys of Ingatestone (2005)
Leach, Micheal. Rev. John Howard Marsden: Rector of Great Oakley & First Disney Professor of Archaeology.  From ESAH Transactions, Series 4, Volume 1 (2010)
Wilde, E.E.  Ingatestone and The Essex Great Road, with Fryerning (1913)
Yearsley, Ian. Ingatestone and Fryerning. A History (1997)

Andrew Smith

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