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Sunday, 24 July 2016

Essex Churches Then and Now

All Saints Church, Hutton, before restoration in 1873.
One of many fascinating Essex church photographs
 in the Society's collection.
'Essex Churches Then and Now' has been launched online today by the Essex Society for Archaeology and History. 

Andrew Smith, Hon. Deputy Librarian says, "We have been looking through and cataloging our archives and have come across two volumes of Essex church photographs and postcards dating from c1870 to c1910. These are important because some of the photographs pre-date Victorian church restorations, and could therefore be a unique record."

Andrew has digitised over 650 pictures in the collection and produced an index, which has just been published online.

"Publishing the list of photographs online is only the start of the process.  We would be pleased to hear from anyone with an interest in Essex churches, and are happy to share digitised copies with researchers and local history groups".

Andrew plans to visit some of the churches over the next few months and is devising a one-hour talk entitled 'Essex Churches Then and Now' which he hopes to premier in spring 2017.

Initially the photographic collection was thought to have been compiled latterly by John Edward Knight Cutts[1] (1847-1938) (see ), member of the Essex Archaeological Society from 1883, and church architect (see ) whose name is and date is credited to later photographs in the collection.  According to The Buildings of England: Essex by Pevsner / Bettley (2007) J.E.K. Cutts was architect of the now demolished St Augustine’s Church, Lower Dovercourt, 1883-84, and the Arts Centre, formerly the Great Burstead Board School, in Billericay, 1877-78.  All Saints, Dovercourt, restored 1897-98; St Paul Church, Elmstead Market, now a house, built 1908; and, St Mary, Little Oakley, now a house, restored 1895-1902 are all the work of J.E.K. & J.P. Cutts.

It was tempting to think that the work was begun by Edward Cutts.  Having compared the pencil labelling to the handwriting in the EAS Minute Book during the time Cutts served as Secretary, it is clear that the labelling is not his work.  Equally there are errors in labelling: South Benfleet should be North Benfleet, Coopersale should read Theydon Garnon, Stock should read Laindon, Blackmore End should read Stisted, the omissions of East Mersea, Stondon Massey and Chigwell.  Warley is, in fact, Great Warley not Little Warley, a church demolished in the 1950s.  The photograph labelled “Litt. Oakley ?” is clearly not Little Oakley but Ugley[2], and is compelling because Cutts was its restorer.  On the same page a corrected entry from Great to Little Oakley is in fact, from Internet images research, Great Oakley.  There is therefore sufficient evidence to determine that the volumes did not belong to the Cutts family.

The various sizes of photographs, as well as the revelation that copies appear elsewhere, suggest that the mystery compiler was not the photographer but acquired copies probably from perhaps other gentlemen members of the Society, sharing the same taste and concern to record changes in church buildings.  The contents list below gives sizes for some of the photographs, which may indicate the same photographer or equipment employed.

“THERE is no need to stress the importance to the ecclesiologist of photographs and reliable drawings of churches before they were subjected to nineteenth-century reparation.” (Benton, TEAS n.s. xxiv).  Benton makes reference to the Chancellor collection of photographs in the Society’s collection, now at the Essex Record Office.

A further important collection of Essex prints, exquisite sketches, photographs and newspaper cuttings in the name of Probert (ERO A13366) was deposited by the Society at the Essex Record Office in 2012.

The collections of photographs may be supported by contemporary narrative: Suckling (1846), Buckler (1856), Chancellor (as published in the Transactions of the Society, and Essex Review), and manuscript notes by King (1856-93) and C. F. D. Sperling.

[1] On the Membership List in 1915, Cutts was living in Ontario, Canada having retired there in 1912.  His parents were Edward Lewes Cutts (1824-1901), clergyman and founder of E.A.S., and Mariann Elizabeth Knight (see ).
[2] Identified by Martin Stuchfield who sent an identical modern photograph following the Society’s AGM on 25 June 2016.

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