Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Parish Registers (1)

Taken from the archives of the Essex Society for Archaeology and History: S/SEC/4/1, dated 1858

4.   Examples of children of Puritans baptised.

At Roxwell, “puritanical names & c: Humility 1657. Humiliation (Horsnayle) 1681 (apparently son of above. Humility Horsnayle, the ‘father & son are both here written Humiliacion.) Help (Copsy) 1707.  Heven Hoppuck 1732.  Habakkuk 1735.  Henry & Sarah Broccas following an imposter wh. seems to have been prophetic called their first son in 1743, Shadrack, who was succeeded by Meshach in 1745, & the two completed by Abednego in 1747.”

Monday, 30 March 2015

The Society's Archives: Parish Registers

Online historical research is an almost expected feature of our digital age.  In recent years the Essex Record Office, in its role as Diocesan archivist, has made available by subscription the collection of Essex parish registers.  No longer is it necessary to go to the search room to view microfilm copies.  Technology moves along as does the availability of these records.

When the Essex Archaeological Society was formed in 1852, one of its earliest projects was to establish the extent of registers in individual parishes.  In a letter to clergymen dated 25 October 1858, Edward Cutts, Honorary Secretary, circulated “a paper of Queries, drawn up by members to indicate the points of interest … [which] will not only be carefully indexed and treasured among the Society’s papers … but … digested by him into a general paper on the Parish Registers of the County.”  Twenty three questions were asked.

Within tightly wrapped brown paper tied firmly with string I found what our Archives Catalogue describes as, “Collection of returned forms for the Society's parish register survey 1858: Short returns from Chingford, Colchester St Peter, White Colne, Fairstead, Frating (and Thorrington), Castle Hedingham, Herongate, Hutton, Latchingdon, Manningtree, White Notley, Purleigh, Southminster, Stifford, Tendring, Wendon Lofts (and Elmdon), Wicken Bonhunt, Wickham Bishops and Wickham St Pauls.  Fuller returns from Bardfield Saling, Barking, Belchamp Otten, Birdbrook, Little Burstead, Chadwell St Mary, Colchester St Leonard, Cold Norton, Faulkbourne, East Hanningfield, Little Horkesley, Lawford, Messing, Navestock, Roxwell, Thaxted, Theydon Garnon and Great Warley.  Also included: copy of a letter from Morant to the Lord of the Manor of Aldham on the history of the estate, 19 Apr 1763.  2 pages from the St James's Gazette 5 Jan 1887 regarding the refusal of the tithe payers of Hatfield Broad Oak to pay their tithes to Trinity College Cambridge. Rubbing of a brass at Kirby-le-Soken to Rebekah Crease, died 1619, now (presumably) lost.” The latter items have recently been published on our blog (S/SEC/4/1).

The opening question to clergymen was the year in which Parish Registers commenced.  I compared the returns to ‘The Atlas and Index of Parish Registers’ (2003) by Humphrey-Smith.  All the earliest dates corresponded which indicated that the Society is not sitting on a unique record of lost ledgers.  That is not to suggest that these documents are obsolete.  The returns give insight into the study of such things as baptism of Puritan children, proclamation of marriages in Market-places, “interments specially described as with a coffin, without a coffin; with a sermon …”, Certificates of Burial in woollen (the topic of a recent article in Essex Journal), notes of Inductions to supplement “Newcourt’s Repertorium is often incomplete, especially about the period of the Great Rebellion, “extracts of events relating to local or general history”.  The great storm of 26 November 1703 is recorded at Purleigh which “layd naked most peoples dwelling houses, Barns, Stables & all other houses“.  A two-month long frost in 1683 is recorded at Cold Norton “so violent that several people for several days went backwards and forwards over Fambridge Ferry upon the ice”. The Register at Messing records the “Provisions and other accomodations for the Army under his Excellency the Lord Fairfax” during the siege of Colchester in 1648.  Other than notes on the registers of Barking (published in the Transactions, Old Series, Volume II) a general digest was not produced.  Perhaps the survey did not produce a sufficiently comprehensive record of the county.

At the turn of the twentieth century we see the efforts of local historians in gaining access to records in church safes.  C F D Sperling included some parish register transcripts in his manuscript books (S/LIB/9/1-7) and a note book dedicated to the topic (S/LIB/9/15).  J L Glasscock’s manuscript notebook ‘Notes and gleanings from various places in Herts and Essex’ (S/LIB/9/28) mentions in 1903 that at Little Dunmow, “My friend Mr Hastings Worrin of Priory Lodge Little Dunmow kindly invited me … & shewed me the Parish Reg. from which I made … extracts.” There are many other examples.  “Revd J Monk [Henham, 1906] allowed me to inspect the 1st Vol of Register which contains Bap. Mar. Bur. 1539 to 1741.”  Glasscock also mentions the “Sheering Book of Rates and Accounts 1680. This old book was offered for sale to me (May 1914) & I was instrumental in getting its returned (by a payment from the Rector of Sheering to the owner) to its proper place the Church Chest of Sheering.” He then goes on to describe its content.  It is now preserved in the Essex Record Office.

By the 1930s many members of the Society had been engaged in making transcripts of Parish Registers. 

Our archives include an envelope containing the work of C F D Sperling and C Partridge in obtaining transcription of Parish Registers (S/LIB/9/50/9).  This contains: (1) Church Registers Marriages. Alphabetical list compiled by Sperling; (2) Letter from Henry, Bishop of Chelmsford, Bishopscourt, Chelmsford, dated 2.3.1932: “I am quite willing to give you permission to borrow the Registers of any parish in this Diocese, and I authorise the Incumbent to lend them to you for the purpose of copying them”; (3) Letter from Bishop of Barking, dated 26.9.1931; (4) Letter from A J Parry from St Peter’s Vicarage, Upton Cross, E7 to the Bishop, dated 7.7.1931; (5) Letter from Wanstead Rectory to the Bishop, 1.7.1931; (6) Letter from Little Yeldham Rectory to Revd Alfred Young, dated 2.7.1931; (7) Letter from Bishop of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich to Sperling, dated 14.2.1931: “As requested by Mr Charles Partridge I hereby authorise you to borrow the registers of any parish in this Diocese”; (8) Notes on Parish Registers transcribed by C Partridge including a list of 12 refusals by clergy. This includes Great Bentley: “Bentley Magna.  After correspondence, & after calling several times, I at last found the Vicar at home – Rev G Colley. He has a transcript from 1558 to (I think) 1717, made by a former vicar.  He showed it to me, but refused to lend it on the ground that our work is “utterly useless”. He said “You would be better using your time in digging potatoes, or in working as I do – preaching the Gospel”!  He is quite impossible, an awful bounder, & was so impertinent that I walked out of the vicarage. I wouldn’t go again should he beg me to go. I leave him to you and the Bishop!”

In the 1950s there was a surge in enquiries to the Society from family historians.  The Society has a large number of in-letters to our Secretary.  The Essex Record Office noticed this too and commented in one of their letters (S/SEC/7/4).

These transcripts became a matter of controversy when forty years later the Essex Record Office was granted permission to make microfilm copies.  A Mr Whitehead, one the transcribers, objected strongly to copies of his work being undertaken (S/LIB/7/2).  In the late 1970s Hon Librarian Peter Boyden produced a catalogue of transcripts held in the Society’s Library (S/ARC/1/1).   The documents have since been deposited at the Essex Record Office.

Parish Registers are the bedrock for research.  One such example is the essay written for the Third Series, Volume 4, of Transactions (1972): ‘The Plague in Colchester 1579-1666’ by I G Doolittle.  “On the basis of an analysis of the parish registers of St Leonards, St Marys, and St Peters and borough records, mortality of epidemic proportions seems to have occurred in the following years: 1579, 1586:, 1597, 1603, 1626, 1631, 1644, and 1665-6.”  The volume has recently been digitised by the Society making retrieval very simple.

The Victorian Parish Register return to the Society for St Leonards Colchester is silent regarding the plague.  At Barking, “periods of great mortality” were “1593, 1603, 1625, 1665, 1666, 1729. In these years the mortality was double the average, or thereabouts: except 1603 by far the most fatal year, & in which there was more than 3 times the average.”  This illustrates the inconsistent reporting and perhaps why a digest was never produced.  However the exercise was probably the first ever attempt to capture data on the subject.

Our long history reflects changes in local history and genealogical research.  Today facsimile copies of registers are available online through Essex Ancestors and some have been cheeky enough to transcribe them and make them freely available on the Internet.  This represents a democratisation of archives which would make the Rector of Great Bentley revolve in his grave.  But as an amateur, under no pressure to create databases and meet dissertation deadlines, I quite like these brown paper packages tied up with string.  These are a few of my favourite things.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Seeking Background on the Brightlingsea Photographer

One spring morning in 1912, Mr C. A. Matthews of Brightlingsea, who had taken up photography the year before, emerged from Liverpool Street railway station with camera and tripod.  He took a series of haunting photographs in the streets and alleys of Spitalfields - children playing, people shopping, and in pubs, tailors and other craftsmen at work.  He then returned to his studio in Brightlingsea and vanished from history. All that is known is that he died four years later, and that prints of his photographs (on mounts bearing his name and address) were found a few years ago in the Bishopsgate Institute.  They have been there for at least 60 years and were in a poor condition. Recently restored, they have been exhibited at the Eleven Spitalfields gallery, 11 Princelet Street, London, E1 6QH.

The gallery would like to know more about Mr Matthews. Can anyone with local knowledge help?

Taken from the Newsletter of the Essex Society for Archaeology and History, Winter 2015.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

ESAH Newsletter: Winter 2015

Members of the Essex Society for Archaeology and History recently received the Winter 2015 edition of the Newsletter (No. 173).  In another 24-page edition it reflects the many things going on in the Society and of historical interest across the county.  Items in this edition include:
- The ESAH Library at Colchester [Essex University]: An Amazing Collection
- The Society's Digitisation Project (featured on this blog)
- The Society's Archives (featured on this blog)
- Rare Unpublished Book Reaccessioned to Society's Library: Catalogue of the Arundel Manuscripts in the Library of the College of Arms, 1829 (featured on this blog)
- An Overlooked Anchorite's Cell in Essex?
- Taper Burns on Structured Timbers
- St Peter & St Paul's Church, Birch
- Boudicca and the Fenwick Treasure, Colchester
- John Morley of Halstead, in his own words
- A Rare Pamphlet
- Brentwood in 1773: The Very Nadir of Theatricals
- EIAG Visit the Postal Museum
- Welsh Drovers in Essex
- Seeking Background on the Brightlingsea Photographer
- Poor Law Provision in Foulness
- Philip Morant Dines Out in Cambridge
- Morant Lecture 2015: The Disney Family and The Hyde, Ingatestone (featured on this blog)
- Re-Evaluation of Excavated Artefacts
- Book Reviews (1) Under Another Sky, Charlotte Higgins (2) The New English Landscape, Jason Orton & Ken Worpole
- Events in Essex

Sunday, 22 March 2015

King Richard III to be Reburied at Leicester Cathedral: Events start today

The body of King Richard III leaves
Leicester University today (Sunday 22 March 2015)
for reburial at Leicester Cathedral on Thursday (26 March 2015).

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Introduction to Great War Archaeology: Cambridge. 17-19 April 2015.

A message received by the Essex Society for Archaeology and History:

I am writing from the Cambridge University Institute of Continuing Education regarding an upcoming weekend residential course that may be of interest to you and your members. If you were able to pass on the below information to your networks and include us in your social media output (@Cambridge_ICE) I would really appreciate it.

New weekend course: Introduction to Great War archaeology 17 – 19 April 2015
The Great War (1914–18) encompassed whole nations and utterly changed both lives and landscapes. This course will present an introduction to the archaeology of this period. Through a mixture of formal presentations, discussion and artefact handling, you will be introduced to field archaeology, monuments and artefacts both in Britain and abroad. The course is taught by Martin Brown, professional archaeologist with over 25 years experience at Institutions like the Ministry of Defence, English heritage and local government. Martin has also featured on Time Team! He is a leading conflict archaeologist, with particular expertise in the Great War so is the ideal man to help you explore the landscapes of war but also to see the men and women within it.  

This weekend course is held at the Cambridge University Institute of Continuing Education’s home, Madingley Hall, and lasts a whole weekend. It costs £250 which includes lunch & dinner during the weekend, refreshments and tuition. Accommodation is also available at the Institute’s home, Madingley Hall, over the weekend at an additional cost starting from £50 per night and subject to availability. If you would like to sign up or want to find out more information, please visit www.ice.cam.ac.uk/GreatWarArchaeology

I hope this is of interest to you and your group. If you can, it would be great if you could forward this message on to your network and talk about the course on your website and social media.

Kind regards

Joshua Hatley

Communications and Marketing Assistant
Institute of Continuing Education, University of Cambridge
Madingley Hall, Madingley, Cambridge CB23 8AQ

Monday, 16 March 2015

Essex Local History Day, at University of Essex: Saturday 4 July 2015

Centre for Local and Regional History
Department of History, University of Essex

The Essex Local History Day 2015

Saturday 4 July 2015, 2.00 to 4.30 p.m.

Senate Room (4.722), Psychology Department Building, Square One, University of Essex, Colchester Campus, Wivenhoe Park, Colchester.

‘You earn your rest!’ Women’s work in Victorian Essex
Dr Amanda Wilkinson, University of Essex

Soldiers &Prostitution in a Garrison Town:
Colchester 1850-1900
Dr Jane Pearson & Maria Raynor, University of Essex

Car-parking is FREE.
The Senate Room will be signposted from the main visitors’ car-park.
There will be a short break for refreshments between the two papers.

For tickets, please fill in and return the slip below (please print!).

Please send me……..  ticket(s) for this year’s Essex Local History Day

NAME ……………………………………………………………………………


I enclose a cheque for £2 per ticket (payable to University of Essex).
Please enclose a stamped addressed envelope and send to:

Essex Local History Day, c/o Lisa Willis, Department of History, University of Essex, Wivenhoe Park, Colchester CO4 3SQ.

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Society announces Archives Open Days for its Members

Essex Society for Archaeology and History
Archives Open Days
Saturday 3 October & Saturday 7 November 2015
10.15am to 1.00pm
Education Room, Hollytrees, Colchester

Come and see the archives of our Society dating back to 1852.
No charge.
Admission to our pop up search room on production of valid membership card. 
Search room rules apply – pencil use only etc.  Bring your own laptop, digital camera.

Our records include Minute Books and research by members over many years.
Highlights include two albums of church photographs taken c.1880 to 1910 and six volumes of notes on churches by C. F. D. Sperling dating from the late-nineteenth to early-twentieth century.
View the latest draft catalogue online at www.blackmorehistory.co.uk/esaha.html
For further information or to pre-order documents use the Contact Form via www.esah160.blogspot.co.uk

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Society Archives Catalogue goes Online for the first time

The Essex Society for Archaeology and History has a long history of its own stretching back to 1852.  Over the many years it has kept minute books and other records.  Today it is publishing online an early draft of its Archive Catalogue, a first update since 1980.  Unfortunately it is not possible for the public or members of the Society to view these records at this time.  We are happy to receive enquiries from members. The Archives Catalogue can be viewed here

Monday, 2 March 2015

Historical Association: Lecture, Saturday 7 March 2015

ESAH160: Historical Association: Lecture, Saturday 7 March ...: What the Italian Renaissance owed to Britain A talk by Dr. David Rundle. Trinity Methodist Church, Chelmsford. 2.30pm.