Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Blackmore: Christmas

Well it looks like a Christmas scene but is actually one taken at the beginning of April 2008.

Monday, 22 December 2008

Stondon Massey: Byrd for Christmas

BBC FOUR is repeating the series 'Sacred Music' this week. Programme 3, 'Tallis, Byrd and The Tudors' is on Christmas Eve, 24 December, at 7.00pm.

Harry Christophers, director of The Sixteen who appears in the programme, told the 'Early Music Show' (BBC Radio 3, 6.4.08) how very much he enjoyed performing Byrd's intimate music at Ingatestone Hall.

William Byrd (1543 - 1623) made no bones about the fact that he was a Catholic, and had powerful friends to protect them. His family and close friends were often in trouble and even imprisoned for recusancy. He became a close friend of the Petre family at Ingatestone and, while living at Stondon Massey, embarked on the Gradualia and Masses. This music was to be sung in private Catholic chapels such as that of the Petre family.

He devoted himself to projects during the last 30 years of his life while in Essex. There are two Byrds – the private one in retreat in Essex and a more European one, linked with De Monte across in Vienna. De Monte sends ‘By the rivers of Babylon’ Byrd replies in opening text ‘How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land’, a poignant response.

The composer's body was laid to rest in Stondon Massey churchyard in July 1623. Local people re-enacted his secret burial in the closing scenes of the programme.

An unmissable programme!

Friday, 19 December 2008

Blackmore: Connection with St Paul's Cathedral (completed 1708)

On 26 February 1677/78 the King (Charles II) issued a Brief to all parishes requesting contributions towards the rebuilding of St Paul’s Cathedral. The project had been dogged with financial problems. Christopher Wren’s masterpiece was not finished until 1708 and finally paid for two years later. The return for Blackmore, along with others, is preserved at the Guildhall Library [Guildhall Manuscripts 25565/8 f31].

The Briefs for the Cathedral Church of St Paul was published the twenty Eighth day of April in the year of Our Lord 1678 in the Parish Church of Blackmore in the Diocese of London & collected thereupon the following viz

..................................£ s d
Thomas Smyth Esq 00 – 10 – 00
Thomas Barrett 00 – 09 – 00
Joseph Springham 00 – 00 – 06
Thomas Simonds 00 – 00 – 06
Ignatius Glascock 00 – 00 – 06
Mary Hubbard 00 – 00 – 06
Thomas Sachs 00 – 00 – 04
Thomas Poole 00 – 00 – 06
Richard Wolcott 00 – 00 – 06
Elizabeth Petchy Wilds 00 – 00 – 06
Natherath Springham 00 – 00 – 04
Thomas Mott 00 – 00 – 06
William Ponde 00 – 00 – 04
William Livermore 00 – 00 – 03
William Baker 00 – 00 – 02
Jeffrey King 00 – 00 – 02
Humphrey Jackson 00 – 00 – 02
Sum is 00 – 16 – 09

Published by John Glascock curatibitis
Collected the weeks following at their … houses
By us William Baker )
Christopher Sachs ) Churchwardens

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Harlow: Ancient & Modern (4)

The oldest item in the modern Water Gardens (2003) is 'Eve' by Rodin (1882). Behind the pond are eateries and the Civic Centre.
More on 'Harlow Ancient & Modern' next month.
Another place well worth a visit is The Museum of Harlow at Mark Hall. For more information go to

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Harlow: Ancient & Modern (3)

The Broadwalk, Harlow, is Britain's oldest shopping precinct. At its southern end is the bronze sculpture 'Trigon' by Lynn Chadwick (1961)

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Harlow: Ancient & Modern (2)

A photograph taken in September 2008 near the house in the Gibberd Garden. The flowers around the sculpture are striking. Inside Frederick Gibberd's former home is his Library and a display of plans, scale models and other material relating to the development of Harlow New Town. For more information on the Gibberd Garden go to

Monday, 15 December 2008

Harlow: Ancient & Modern (1)

'Owl' is just one of around eighty sculptures in the Gibberd Garden, Harlow. Visitors should not expect neatly clipped flower-beds but rooms containing a variety of work using different media. The Gibberd Garden is open during the summer months ans has a small gift shop and appetising tea room. For more information go to

Friday, 12 December 2008

Harlow: Frederick Gibberd (1908 - 1984)

Sir Frederick Gibberd, architect, was born on 7 January 1908 in Coventry. His crowning achievement – apart from Liverpool’s Roman Catholic Cathedral - was as Master Planner for Harlow. The “new town” was designated in 1947, following the Second World War, when there was an acute need for housing. It was part of the so-called Abercrombie Plan (also known as the Greater London Plan 1944) to build satellite towns around London within the Green Belt (a ring of land around the metropolis designated in 1938 to prevent further encroachment into the countryside). Margaretting and Ongar were short-listed but Harlow, or more accurately a 6000 acre site encompassing the parishes of Great and Little Parndon, Netteswell and Harlow was selected.

Frederick Gibberd and his first wife, Dorothy, moved to the outskirts of Harlow in 1957 where he indulged in his passion for gardening at weekends, away from the offices of the Harlow Development Corporation. His garden is open to the public during the summer months: Gibberd wanted it to be a place of recreation and education for the residents of the town. His second wife, Lady Gibberd developed the garden to be one full of sculptures.

Harlow New Town is perhaps not as well known as it should be for its “public realm” – sculptures in the shopping centre and on housing estates. Lady Gibberd, in her earlier years, then Patricia Fox-Edwards, had been a founder of the Harlow Arts Trust, as had Frederick, an organisation that has been instrumental in commissioning work from modern artists.

Harlow is no concrete jungle either. On his appointment as Master Planner, Gibberd cycled and walked the designated area and, in getting to know the landscape, was able to make sympathetic use of it when drawing up his draft plan to house 60,000 people. Later the target number of residents was increased to 80,000, then 90,000 in 1967. Gibberd’s vision, as seen on the ground today, created ‘green wedges’ between four main built-up areas: The High (a shopping area) and The Stow, Bush Fair and Staple Tye, residential areas with their own estates and library, doctor’s surgery and community centre. He conserved old farmhouses and buildings, destroyed as few ancient trees as possible and turned ancient lanes into quiet cycle-tracks. Harlow village became Old Harlow and, with Potter Street, was expanded. Old Harlow still has be air of a small ancient market town on what was once the Epping to Bishops Stortford road. Gibberd’s plans met with little public opposition.

Known as ‘pram town’ in its early years, Harlow has been through its ups and downs but now tired areas are being regenerated and new estates, such as New Hall, following on from Church Langley, created. But the legacy remains. In the Water Gardens, is a blue plaque to Gibberd’s memory. The site itself is new but Gibberd’s words that a town is like “an organism which would go on changing and being rebuilt as the needs of the people altered” is an apt phrase.

Bateman, Linley H (editor). History of Harlow (Harlow Development Corporation, 1969)
Newens, Stan. The Genesis of Harlow New Town (Essex Journal, Spring 2008)
Sir Frederick Gibberd and His Garden (The Gibberd Garden Trust, 2004)

Head of Sir Frederick – Gerda Rubinstein.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Blackmore: Local History Books Available

Over recent years I have written a number of booklets.
All are sold in aid of church funds.
Available from the Priory Church of St Laurence, Blackmore.
Selected copies available from:
Megarry’s Antique Shop, The Green and,
St Peter & St Paul Church, Stondon Massey.
Price £1.50 each.
Please enquire if you would like items sent by post.

Blackmore: A Short History. The 40-page book contains an extended version of the ‘Through Changing Scenes’ script. This was a performance of the history of Blackmore (Essex) in words and music.

Stondon Massey. A Short History. Two volumes (£3). 88 pages. The text features the work of Revd. Reeve (1858 – 1936), one-time Rector of Stondon Massey and amateur local historian. New chapters bring the village story up to date.

William Byrd. Some Notes. 20 pages. The booklet draws on various sources to tell the life and work of this great Elizabethan composer.

Revd. E.H.L. Reeve: Chronicler Of The Great War. A contemporary record of Stondon Massey (Essex) and its neighbourhood: 1914 - 1918. 64 pages. Reeve wrote notes for a parish history of Stondon Massey through to 1929. In this previously unpublished work, he chronicles life in this neighbourhood during the First World War.

The Bell Tower At Blackmore. 32 pages. This gives a layman’s guide to this magnificent structure as well as the work undertaken to ascertain the date of its construction.

Hatched, Matched & Despatched. 20 pages. A brief survey of Blackmore’s Baptism, Marriage and Burial Registers since the first surviving entry in 1602. Text can now be found on

A Guide To The Priory Church of St Laurence, Blackmore. Our church guide book.

Black Thursday: The Essex Storm of 1897. 20 pages. The story of the Midsummer hail-storm which devastated this part of Essex.

Blackmore Remembers. 20 pages. A collection of notes about the First World War and of those who gave their lives.

Stondon Massey Remembers. 20 pages. A collection of notes about the First World War and of those who gave their lives.

Other books in the Series

The Priory Church of St Laurence, Blackmore
A Complete History:
Part 1: From Domesday to Dissolution. 1086 to 1540
Part 2: The Parish Church and the People. 1540 to 1720
Part 3: Georgian Blackmore. 1720 to 1837
Part 4: Victorian and Edwardian Blackmore. 1837 to 1922
Part 5: Recent Times. 1922 to 2007

The Smyth Family at Blackmore

Life as an Essex Agricultural Labourer: 1840 to 1920 *

A Population Study: Blackmore. 1841 to 1901 **

* To be published January 2009
** Planned work

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Area: "High Country History Group" Journal No 31

The Quarterly Journal of the High Country History Group has just been issued to members. It contains a number of items about and beyond the local area including:
- White’s Directory of Essex 1848: Theydon Garnon
- Piggotts and Rockets
- Stanford Rivers School Foundation Committee 1851
- What the Papers Say
- Mrs Charles Hunter, of Hill Hall
- Revd. E H L Reeve – Chronicler of the Great War (previously published on this blog)
- Events following the Armistice (previously published on this blog)
- England in the Days of Old (previously published on this blog)
- The Magic Lantern

Magic Lantern Show. On 4 December members and friends of the High Country History Group enjoyed a special evening given by Richard Rigby, Secretary of the Magic Lantern Society. Richard and his wife, dressed in costume, took the audience back to the days before wireless and television showing a variety of slides dating from the Edwardian era and before using a contemporary projector. Members saw a comedy slide show of a short and tall man going on a picnic only to be chased by a tiger; the traveller in bed at Epping, who when he snored swallowed a rat – it causing outrage to the sensitive Victorians; scenes of London and a story warning of the dangers of ‘The Bottle’. Seasonal refreshments were served and profits for this ticket event were divided between the Essex Air Ambulance and Haven Hospice.

For a copy of the High Country History Group Journal you need to be a member. This costs £6 per year (£9 for family). In addition a series of talks are held at Toot Hill Village Hall during the winter season (members £1, non members £2 – includes coffee and biscuits) a summer walk or visit is organised.

For membership and further information contact this blog.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Area: England In The Days Of Old

Short extracts from William Andrew’s book published in 1897.

The age of snuffing

“Schoolmasters were forbidden to smoke. In the rules of Chigwell School, founded in 1629, only fourteen years after the visit of James to Cambridge, it is stated: ‘The master must be a man of sound religion, neither Papist not Puritan, of a grave behaviour, and sober and honest conversation, no tippler, or haunter of alehouses, and no puffer of tobacco’.”

Bread and baking in bygone days

“Towards the close of the thirteenth century the chief bakers who supplied London with bread lived at Stratford-le-Bow, Essex, doubtless on account of being near Epping Forest, where they could obtain cheap firewood. At a later period some were located at Bromley-by-Bow. The bread was brought to London in carts, and exposed for sale in Bread Street. The bakers attended daily excepting on Sundays and great festivals. It was no uncommon circumstance to seize the bread on its way to town for being of light weight, or made of unsound materials. It was not until the year 1302 that London bakers were permitted to sell bread in shops.”

Harvest home

“Tusser tells us that:

‘In harvest time, harvest folk, servants and all,
Should make all together, good cheer in the hall,
And fill the black bowl, so blithe to their song,
And let them be merry, all harvest time long’.”

Andrew Smith

Monday, 8 December 2008

Area: The Essex Storm of 1897 (2)

Recently the High Country History Group heard about two catastrophic weather events of the late nineteenth century. In a double-bill of speakers, Anne Brooks told the story of the Essex Earthquake of April 1884 and Andrew Smith outlined the events of the hailstorm of midsummer day 1897 which devastated crops in the Blackmore, Ingatestone and surrounding area. The notes on the latter were published on the blog (see entry 1.12.07) and appeared in a book entitled ‘Black Thursday’.

Surfing the net I discovered that the entry has been lifted and used in a wider study of the history of rain and hail storms in this country. Follow this link to find out more, and about the 'Storm Enthusiasts Group'.

Friday, 5 December 2008

Stondon Massey: Edward Henry Lisle Reeve (1858 - 1936)

“Every foot of old England has a history if only some one would be at the pains to unearth it”.

Edward Henry Lisle Reeve (1858 - 1936) was Rector of Stondon Massey in Essex from 1893 until 1935, succeeding his father in the role. In his spare time he researched and wrote what is regarded as a “model parish-history”.

“Mr Edward Reeve [Edward’s grandfather], who purchased the advowson [the right to appoint a Rector to the parish] in 1849, had for some little time been seeking a suitable parish as a sphere of work for his only son. The choice finally lay between Stondon and a village in Kent, and on Stondon the selection fell. A wave of Church life was then passing over the country and the young Rector entered upon his ministry with all the enthusiasm which youth and earnestness could inspire. Naturally he was not satisfied with the condition of the church, and he can scarcely have unpacked his effects when he began to move for a thorough restoration. Only instituted on May 22nd 1849, we find him calling a Vestry Meeting on July 30th “to consider the proposed repairs”.

“For the first few years of his incumbency the young Rector had his father and family living with him, and after his marriage the old gentleman would often come over from Ongar and delighted with identifying himself with any of the parochial festivals”.

The 1851 Census shows Edward James as ‘Rector of Stondon Massey’ (aged 29) with his father, mother and two sisters living at the Rectory. They had five servants. On that night they paid host to a visitor. The burial Register confirms his father’s later place of residence as Chipping Ongar. Edward James personally baptised his children. Following Edward James’ death, the 1901 census shows Edward Henry, a single man (aged 43) as Head of the household. Living with him was his elderly mother, his three spinster sisters and three servants. His sisters never married and all died as octogenarians. Perhaps the story is true that their father forbade them to marry. Anna died at Orchard Cottage, Marden Ash, Elizabeth at Manor House, Danbury, and Edith also at Danbury. All were buried at Stondon Massey.

From 1856 till his death in 1893 Mr Reeve acted as a Magistrate for the county.

“In 1893 he passed away. The advowson being left to me as his only son I had no alternative but to present myself as the new Incumbent to the Bishop and was duly instituted on Sept. 28th, 1893.

Reeve wrote of himself: “I may perhaps mention that I graduated at Oriel College, Oxford. After Ordination by Dr Thomson, Archbishop of York, in 1881, I held the Curacy of Scrayingham, near Stamford Bridge, 1881 – 1885 under the Rev. Sir George W Cox, Bt.; and in 1885 I migrated to St Botolph’s Colchester, where with the Rev. J R Corbett I spent nine very happy years”.

Revd. (later Canon) Reeve stayed as Rector of Stondon Massey until 1935, a year before his death. The advowson was bequeathed by him to the Bishop of Chelmsford.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Blackmore: Notes and Queries (3). Americans in Essex. B26 Bomber Crashed in 1944

I received this query from my brother who is webmaster of the popular community website It concerns an aspect of history with which I am unfamiliar. Does anyone have any information on the Americans in Essex during the Second World War?

Rebecca wrote to the Blackmore Village website:
8 November 2008
“Don’t know if you can shed any light on research that I am doing alongside others for the 1st Ashingdon Scout Group regarding a B26 bomber that crashed in Blackmore on 24th September 1944?”

29 November 2008

I know little about this but the Internet has the following reference to crashes:
Baby Doll III
2Lt. Richard E. Baehr
1Lt Richard J. Snyder flew over in this plane. Crashed near Blackmore, Essex, returning from a ferry mission from France.

The same Rebecca wrote on 31 October 2008:
“I'm searching for crew members details of those who were in Lilly Commando which crashed in poor weather conditions in Ashingdon, Essex, England. Sadly the crew were all killed in the crash on 24th September 1944. The pilot was Jack T. Hanlon who had previously flew Rationed Passion. This may also help Greg Hansard who posted a message asking for details of the whereabouts of the plane and crew. His father, Elmer Hansard, had previously flown in Lilly Commando. 573rd BS391st BG. Have just been to the site where the plane crashed. It informed us that the plane was flown by 1st Lt. Richard E. Baehr and also listed the crew as Sgt. E.G. Demyanovich, Sgt. W.L. McCarty, Sgt. D.E. Crider III, 1st Lt. F.I. Yawitz. As there were several crashes around this area I confused it with the earlier enquiry, sorry. From the pilots name we have since learned that the plane was 'Baby Doll III' returning from France on the 24th September 1944. It crashed in an area known as Blackmore which is in Ashingdon, Essex. The plane was based at Matching Green (391st 573rd) serial number 4295823. The plaque marking the spot where the plane crashed is in the middle of a field and I doubt many people know of its existence, it has also not weathered well. Our local cub scout leader suggested it would be an idea for four cubs and scouts to investigate the history of the plane and crew and perhaps give them a better memorial at our local church. I am interested as one of those scouts is my son who also has great interest in anything connected with flying and planes from WW2. I have taken a few pictures of the plaque which was placed in 1988, but sadly the plaque has not weathered well. We would love to hear from anyone who has any knowledge of the plane and crew. Thanks, Rebecca Ricks (Beaver Scout Leader 1st Ashingdon-St. Andrews, Essex”.

Following this up I asked a lifelong inhabitant of Blackmore who confirms that a B26 did crash off of Fingrith Hall Road. He said that many ‘planes came back badly damaged and some American airmen did not make it. The Essex Record Office holds Air Raid Patrol records for the area so might have reference to this event.

A recent television programme said that one in six Americans were killed in their bombing sorties and many damaged planes were diverted to Stansted airfield because it had a 1½ mile runway. This is now the site of the airport with its controversy surrounding an additional runway. For more information on Stansted Airport’s history visit

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Blackmore: Notes and Queries (2). Letters from Ruth

The Internet has really opened opportunities to share family, local and social history. Here is a sequence of correspondence I have had with Ruth who has shared much about the past in Blackmore and Stondon Massey. This is helping to build a picture. My intention is to leave the discussion on this blog and marshal the various topics onto the main website: Photos mentioned in the text are not published here but will be on the main website.

18 August 2008

I may have already e-mailed roughly the same message already but I am not very technically minded and I think I got it wrong! I am interested in the history of Blackmore as my mother was born there and my parents married there, although most of my ancestors were from Stondon Massey. My mother attended the village school, the one that became a library, but was born a couple of hundred yards down the road at a house called “The Old School House.” It had a large downstairs room which may well have been used for teaching, but I can’t find any evidence of it having been a school. Do you know anything about it? We wonder if it really was a school, who were the teachers and whether they lived in the house. I believe it was owned later on by the owner of Copyhold Farm, maybe Mr Hodge? I guess it may have been demolished around the 1950s. We do have a photo of it. It was a white boarded house. Some years ago a book was written by a lady called Mary Conn who listed many of the residents she remembered from her childhood, but I can’t find my copy of her book. She definitely mentioned my mother, but I can’t remember what she said about the house. She also mentioned my grandparents and said they kept themselves to themselves! During World War 2 the house was also home to a couple of evacuees and several soldiers were also billeted there.

I would be really interested in any information you may have so I can pass it on to my mother.

Many thanks

19 August 2008

Dear Ruth

Thank you for your note. I thought that I would send a quick introductory reply. Could I ask two things:

1. that I edit and publish all these notes on the website:
2. for some more information.

What is your mother's name and grandparent's names? If you can give a summary family tree for both Blackmore and Stondon Massey this would be helpful.

Where was the "Old School House"? In which direction would you walk 200yards from the school?

I can confirm the Hodge family had Copyhold Farm between about 1919 and 1945.

Please send me a copy of the photo.

It was Mary Coller (one of the Conn clan) who wrote 'Blackmore. My 1920s Wonderland'.

I would really like to know much more about WW2 in Blackmore - evacuees, soldiers billeted.

This helps me build a picture and suggested lines of research.

Many thanks
Andrew Smith

19 August 2008

Hi Andrew
Thank you for replying. Firstly you are welcome to edit my comments and use them as you wish including publishing them on your blog site. I found that absolutely fascinating by the way.

The Old School House was on the Brentwood Road, approximately where Meadow Rise starts today. As my grandfather worked at Copyhold Farm it was handy for work. We knew Mr Hodge owned the house as Grandad worked for him as a cowman and the house was supplied with the job. The house next door to The Old School House was called Pendennis, and Mr and Mrs West lived there. This house was built around 1937 and prior to that there was a row of three or four cottages on the site. My family left the village in 1951 when my grandfather left his job and they moved in with my grandmother’s sister in Kelvedon Hatch for a while. By this time Copyhold was owned by Mr Marriage. However my parents were married in Blackmore church in March 1952 and still visit occasionally.

My mother was born in the house in April 1926 as Rose (known around Blackmore as Rosie) Larke. Her father was William Larke (1901 – 1965) but he was born in Norfolk, although his parents ended up in Essex and are buried together in Stondon Massey churchyard (Walter George Larke 1868 -1936 and Frances Eleanor Larke nee Earl 1868 – 1952).

Her mother was Alice Larke nee Gosling (1891 – 1972). She was one of five daughters and one son (died in infancy) born to Albert Gosling and Rosa Day. The children were all born at 5 Giles Cottages in Stondon Massey. One of the daughters Rosa lived in the house until 1974 when she was finally forced to leave and moved to Soames Mead in Stondon Massey. It was never modernised and the loo was down the garden!

I don’t know much about the Day family except that several of them emigrated to Canada. Albert Gosling was illegitimate, father unknown, but his mother was Susan Gosling, born 31st January 1847 in Stondon Massey, the daughter of William Gosling, born 1843 in Kelvedon Hatch. Susan later married Philip Baines, who was a widower with several children, including Ernest Baines, who I remember around Stondon Massey when I was a child. I do have further information about the family tree, but that should give you an idea of who we are. The Gosling family of course disappeared as they only had daughters who survived but they are also related to the Lagdens who I believe are still in evidence around Kelvedon Hatch.

Mary Conn later Coller did mention my family in her book, and actually lived in one of the cottages where Pendennis was built, before the family moved to the Nine Ashes Road.

When WW2 broke out in September 1939, my mother had been sent away to Hemel Hempstead to say with her father’s sister for a short holiday. Her mother was supposed to be travelling by bus to collect Mum on the Saturday, but all the buses had been commandeered to transport evacuees. Another member of the family drove her, and when they got home there were two evacuees sitting on the doorstep waiting for them. They were Wanda and Eileen, not related to each other, from Leytonstone. Wanda kept in touch with my grandmother until she died in 1972, but we have no idea what happened to her after that. My mother is still in contact with Eileen. Later in the war soldiers were billeted with the family. I have a photo of one of them, and mum can’t remember any of their names now. She has promised to have a think and see if she can come up with any more details for you.

I will send you the photo of the house later and my mother has lots of photos of the family, often in the gardens of either the Old School House or more likely Giles Cottages. If they would be of any use to you, you are welcome to have copies of them to use as you wish.

I hope this information helps you and look forward to hearing from you.

Best wishes

20 August 2008

Mary Coller’s book

“Then came the Larkes, Billy and his wife, and their daughter Rosie. The house in which they lived had been a private school at one time, but that was long before my time.

All three of them, for want of a better word, were reserved. They kept themselves to themselves and did not mix much in the village” (Coller, p8)

I need to do some searching to see whether “The Old School House” was ever a private school and, if so, when.

Copyhold Farm

I have the original signed transcript of an oral history interview given by Colin Hodge in 1987. I also have a copy of the original tape recording. It was published in ‘Parish of Blackmore. Centenary 1894 – 1994’. George Hodge, his father, came to Copyhold Farm in 1918 and stayed until 1945.

Colin Hodge said: “Our workers lived in farm cottages in the village. They were Jack Wheal (head horseman), Albert Oval (shepherd), Billy Lark (cowman), George Anderson (cowman), Tom West, and also four lovely ladies, Mrs Harvey and daughter Maisie and the Ray sisters who all worked part-time”.

I may publish the transcript on the site in due course, hoping that the Hodge family (wherever they are now) won’t object.


Copies of photographs are always very welcome for what is a growing collection. As an amateur local historian I am given various items from time to time.

22 August 2008

Hi Andrew
Attached photo of school house as promised. As usual my memory was wrong and the house looked nothing like I remembered, but this is definitely it.

Also attached photo of Mr Pannant. He was one of the soldiers billeted in the house during WW2. He was one of the older ones. Mum also remembers Reg Brown. He was much younger, probably early twenties and came from the North, possibly Yorkshire. He went home on leave to get married while he was with the family.

Also a picture of the Gosling family on the doorstep of their home at Giles Cottages. The picture was taken around 1908, at a guess, judging by age of youngest daughter. They are back row Edith 1889 – 1980 married Standish and lived in London, Rosa 1864 – 1934, Alice 1891 – 1972 wife of Billy Larke and my grandmother, front row Rosa 1898 – 1992 lived in Giles Cottages until 1974, Eleanor 1905 – 2001 lived in Kelvedon Hatch and Emily 1896 - ?? 1960s lived near Ashwells.

Thanks for your help so far, hope you can find out more.


23 August 2008

Hi Andrew
I hope you received the photos OK and that they are of some interest to you. There are plenty more to choose from, mostly taken in Blackmore and Stondon Massey. The most recent are from 1952 when my parents married in Blackmore on Easter Saturday in a blizzard.

I have just read the article about Stondon Massey school and I guess from the dates it was open, the Gosling family must have attended there. My grandmother Alice did mention school but only to tell me how easy it was for me – no cane, no learning by rote etc.

Mum and I have been talking again – always a dangerous thing – and have come up with more questions. We seem to recall that Giles Cottages were some kind of almshouses. Did Albert and Rosa Gosling qualify for assistance and move in there when they married in 1887? They were among the “poor of the parish” and at some point they were given gifts of a sack of coal and money, possibly ten shillings, at Christmas. Who actually owned the cottages? Albert Gosling died in 1944 and his daughter Rosa still lived there. She married and raised her step-children and her own daughter (illegitimate and fostered until Rosa married) there and we moved her out in 1974. The owner(s) had been putting pressure on her for some time to leave, but she was a very private and independent person and didn’t say much. Even then she only moved to Soames Mead. She eventually died in 1992 and is buried in Stondon Massey churchyard. Most of the family are, although some of them had their ashes interred instead, apart from my grandmother Alice. For some reason her husband was cremated and she just went the same way when she died. No one thought about what to do with the ashes. The last ones to be buried there were in 2003 when we buried the ashes of my grandmother’s sister Nellie and her daughter. As there were only daughters (Albert and Rosa had a son but he died in infancy) that was the end of our Goslings.

I hope I don’t annoy you too much with my questions, but I really am interested in local history and the way my family were involved in it. I try to understand what kind of people they were rather than just noting down their dates of birth and death. Also my mum is the only person with good memories of these people. Rosa’s daughter was illegitimate and fostered until she was twelve, and although she did live in Giles Cottages for about three years they were not happy times for her and she doesn’t really like talking about it much.

Thanks again for your help and interest. Enjoy the Bank Holiday weekend.

Best wishes

24 August 2008

I have looked through my records and have the following responses to your questions.

Old School House

I cannot find any evidence (as yet) that the place in Brentwood Road (now Blackmore Road) was a school. My index of Blackmore Names (on has a Mrs Elizabeth Alexander in 1846 as the mistress of an Infants School. Its location, from the ‘Tithe Place-Names of Essex’ (dated 1846) suggests that she ran the school at the Baptist Chapel (now the room known as ‘Pennies’). Miss Elizabeth Gray (1846) ran a ‘Ladies School’, but we have her in the 1841 census as living in Church Street, Blackmore. Then there is an Ellen Manser (1863), but I do not know where she lived. Thomas Hood was the first schoolmaster of the Board School which opened in 1877, the one you refer to. Returning to the 1841 census we have a John Brady, schoolmaster, living “in the village” and at a separate address, Henry Mullucks, also a schoolmaster, living “in the village”. There is a chance that these gentlemen had a school at their home but from my records I cannot locate where there homes were.

I attach an extract from the Ordnance survey 6 inches to a mile map of 1897 which I have enlarged to show the central village area. The property appears on the Brentwood Road, I guess, opposite the end of the footpath running westwards from the church. Today the footpath come out opposite the end of Meadow Rise, where the Old School House once was.

May I suggest that you visit the Essex Record Office, Chelmsford, and get yourself a Readers Card. Take this information with you and show to one of the staff who will get you started and, if necessary, help you order documents. Fortunately you use a computer. I heard of someone who went to a Record Office and gave up because they could not use the technology and were too frightened to ask someone.

To research the House History, follow this link for ideas. I found this link on the Great Baddow website.
“How to dig into the past of your house: “House History in Essex” by Allen Buckroyd & Gloria Harris. (based on a leaflet produced by Essex Records Office) Presentation given at the Great Baddow Historical Society on Friday, 29 September 2006. Please note the Powerpoint download file size is 7.7MB”.

Another lead is to look at the Vestry Minute book (of St Laurence, Blackmore) commencing 1837 which contains on its opening pages a complete list of those who were charged the tithe. As such this is the earliest, if limited, census we have of Blackmore. I believe the list is alphabetical but, from memory, includes addresses. For example I noted that James Burrell occupied the Bull Public House, and William Abel, the Leather Bottle. You might find either Messrs Brady or Mullucks on the list. The reference at the Essex Record Office is D/P 266/11.

If the Essex Record Office is too far away you could engage a professional researcher but that, of course, costs money.

Gosling family

I have run a search on my computer for Gosling. The only reference I have is a link to a website,, referring to “James GOSLING born Blackmore Essex enlist Romford 30144, PRIVATE, Died, Home, 05/11/16, FORMERLY 23863, ESSEX REGT., Suffolk Regiment, 2nd Battalion”. James Gosling was not living at Blackmore, to my knowledge, at the time as he is not commemorated on the War Memorial. He is buried at Felixtowe according to the ‘Commonwealth War Graves Commission’ ( Unfortunately cwgc does not give his parents or family address. I am not sure whether he is a relation of yours?

Baines family

I have notes of a Baines family in Stondon Massey. If this relates to the same Ernest Baines, the one which you remember (your parents being married in 1952) is Ernest Baines junior. As seen in my entry ‘Chronicler of the Great War’ on the blog (15.8.08), Ernest Baines senior was 44 in 1915. In extracts from the book of the same title, Revd. Reeve (Rector of Stondon) wrote:

27th July 1915

“Ernest Baines, of Stondon, who has for some years been doing duty as Bell-ringer and Verger at the Parish Church left on Monday July 19th to join the Transport Corps of the Royal Engineers. A man of 44 and accustomed to horses, he was anxious to place his services at the disposal of his King and country.

Baines is a married man with a large family, some of the children are now old enough to earn their own living: and he hopes that his example may lead some of the single men who are still holding back to come forward and enlist. So far the Government have procured the services of a vast army without conscription.”

20th September 1916

“The War Office is calling men up. Lads who are now eighteen are finding themselves called for, and among them Leonard Hasler, Ernest Baines, Alfred Baines, of Stondon, and Thomas Roast, formerly of Stondon School, now living in Blackmore. Our Church Clerk Ernest Baines, (father of E Baines junior) is now discharged, having done good service, chiefly at Welsh centres, in the Army Training Corps.”

In June 1918 we find Ernest Baines junior serving in Italy but by Armistice Day “His son, a young fellow of 19 bearing the same name, has recently been wounded in one of the last engagements on the Italian Front and is in Hospital in Italy with injuries (as we at present understand) to both legs”.. Ernest Baines returned home in July 1919 after a long spell in hospital.

His father rang the bells at Stondon “with all the old vigour” once the Armistice was announced on 11th November 1918.

Giles Cottages

These are the Almshouses of an ancient Charity, still in existence in Stondon. I have sent an E mail to someone to ask whether they know of its more recent history. I’ll let you know how I get on.

Stondon School

There is a short chapter on Stondon School in my book, ‘Stondon Massey. A Short History’. It was taken, with kind permission, from the parish website,

Family history

In completely agree that genealogy can be much more than noting down names “I try to understand what kind of people they were rather than just noting down their dates of birth and death”. To try and understand the way our ancestors lived fascinates me and brings history, both national and local, to life. Having started by tracing the history of the local church, inevitably my research has widened. I descend from Essex agricultural labourers so understanding how their lives were connected with the land, and even the weather, interests me.


I am always happy to receive photographs etc relating to the local area, especially if they may be shared in publication on the website or in book form.

Some questions in return

Does your family remember the rain storm of the evening of Friday 5 September 1958 when a month’s rain fell all at once causing widespread flooding?

Living in Brentwood Road (now Blackmore Road) does your family remember Minnie Baird who ran the ‘Wayside Tea Rooms’ in the 1930s? Who were the other families in the same road?

My wife and I live in Blackmore Road so I can feel another project under way!!


27 August 2008

Hi Andrew

Thank you for your reply and all the information. My mother was always led to believe that their large front room had been a teaching room, and that the garden at one side had been the children’s playground. Although I appreciate that stories passed down through families can be inaccurate, in this case I believe it. My grandmother’s parents had lived in Stondon Massey all their lives, and if the house had been something different, a pub or a hospital for example, surely they would have been aware of it and told her that it had never been a school. If it was a school right up to when the board school opened, they would have actually known it in operation. However I will take your advice and pay a visit to the Record Office. I live near Romford and have a car so it is not a problem. I have been there in the past, and by coincidence have a problem on my father’s side which can only be solved by a visit, so it’s time I renewed my reader card anyway.

James Gosling is I believe a relation but at the moment I’s not sure which one. The Goslings used the name James several times, and spread out a bit around Doddinghurst and Kelvedon Hatch as well.

Of course in my enthusiasm I got my Ernest Baines confused. I do remember Ernie junior around Stondon Massey when I was quite young. He only had one leg, which ties in with the reference to his leg injuries in Italy [in 1918], but could move surprisingly quickly with his crutches.

I would be interested in any information on Giles Cottages, as number 5 was the family home for at least 80 years. I can’t quite work out how Rosa junior was allowed to stay there after the death of her father Albert in 1944, or if she was, why they were apparently so keen to get rid of her later on. When she moved out she was already in her mid seventies, so I would have thought it could have been a waiting game, with her surely not having too many years left. As it turned out she lived on another eighteen years!

My mother doesn’t remember Minnie Baird. She does however remember Wayside Stores at Hook End, run by a Mrs Dines.

My parents vaguely remember flooding in Chelmsford in 1958, but they were living and Dad was working in Writtle at the time, and it didn’t affect them.

Mum and I are going to spend some time searching through the family photo collection and if we find anything that may interest you I will send you copies. You are welcome to publish them on the internet or in book form. As a family we have nothing to hide, and as everyone involved apart from my mum is now dead, it can’t offend anyone. Mum is happy about the whole thing. I think she would feel quite famous again if she got another mention in a book.

I totally agree about history. It only becomes interesting if you can dig under the dates and find about the real people who made it happen. I too am descended from ag labs, especially on my father’s side. They moved around the county wherever they could find work, which makes tracing your family tree harder, but so interesting. I admit I cried when I found out the story of my great grandfather’s death. He lived alone, separated from his wife, and was taken ill. Neither of his sons could afford to help, and didn’t have the room in their homes to take him in, so he was taken to the Public Assistance Institution (the workhouse until two years earlier) where he died a few days later.

Look forward to hearing from you soon.

Best wishes

27 August 2008

Hi Andrew
My apologies, but my mum’s memory has let her down. The shop she remembers at Hook End was actually called Dines Stores, and was run by Mrs Dines. She has been talking to one of her friends, also Blackmore born and bred. There was a shop which stood more or less opposite Pendennis, the house next to The Old School House. It was run by Eli and Mrs West, and may well have been the Wayside Stores. They sold homemade ice cream on Sundays. Mum’s friend remembers passing cyclists stopping off there for a cup of tea, so there must have been some kind of tea rooms there as well. Sorry, but that’s all the two of them could remember.

Flood of 1958. Mum’s friend was still living in Blackmore at the time, and recalls a little flooding in Church Street, but nothing major.

The Old School House was later given a house number and was 10 Brentwood Road.

I don’t think Mum has any more friends from Blackmore who are still alive, but they are happy to help you in any way they can. The friend is also going to check out her photo collection.

Sorry for misleading you.

28 August 2008

Hi Andrew

Another thing crossed my mind. I know you are aware of the link between Blackmore and the de Vere family. I am currently trying to prove a link between my Larke line and the de Vere family, which also would link us into the de Clare family. Although the Larkes originated in Norfolk I am becoming convinced that my family’s history is inextricably linked to Blackmore. I don’t expect you to know anything about this or help in any way, but you might just uncover something accidentally which is relevant.
Will be in touch


4 October 2008

Giles Charity

I have a lead but need to follow this through. Bear with me please on this.

Herbert Larke

I have been researching the names of those associated with Blackmore who died in the First World War (and am publishing it on Herbert Larke, presumably your great uncle, died in this conflict.

Herbert Larke (son of Mr W G & Mrs E F Larke of Copyhold Cottage Blackmore) served in the Lancashire Fusiliers. He died on 21st March 1918, aged 23 and is remembered on Pozieres Memorial.

His name is not commemorated at Blackmore so perhaps he had moved away from the village?

The ‘Commonwealth War Graves Commission’ includes the following citation:

22 November 2008

Giles Charity

The Giles Charity still exists in Stondon Massey for the benefit of parishioners in hardship. The Stondon Massey parish magazine advertises that the Trust gives money towards
- the cost of travel for the patient who has to travel to and from hospital for treatment, or family members, who are visiting the person who is sick in hospital over a period of time
- equipment in the home for the patient
- provision of bedding, clothing, food, fuel, furniture, including comforts and other aid for the sick
- educational assessments and other needs e.g. speech therapy
- expenses for people doing further studies
- assist purchase of school uniforms and educational trips.

In more recent times all the cottages were sold off, because they were in need of refurbishment. The Charity therefore invests a capital sum.

I am advised that the records of the Charity are held at the Essex Record Office. A quick look at SEAX did not reveal much. A more diligent search might.

Revd. Reeve’s book (1900) includes notes about the charity and its officers from its founding in 1575.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Blackmore: Notes and Queries (1). Bertie Millbank

The Internet has really opened opportunities to share family, local and social history. Here is a sequence of correspondence I have had with Joe Ryan, an Essex man living in France, regarding Bertie Millbank who was an early victim of the First World War. My intention is to leave the discussion on this blog and marshal the various topics onto the main website:

Joe Ryan, working in Paris, wrote:
13 November 2008

Hello. I work in Nanterre, close to the Neuilly cemetery where there are about 30 Commonwealth War Graves. At this time of remembrance I decided to pay my respects. Having grown up in Essex, I was drawn to the grave of Bertie Millbank (born in Blackmore). Two things struck me:
- He died very early in the War.
- He is buried in Neuilly, miles from the front line.
Do you know anything about the circumstances surrounding his death?

13 November 2008

Thank you for your E mail. It is only within the last couple of months that I have heard about Bertie Millbank through research because his name does not appear on the Blackmore War Memorials. I know nothing of his circumstances other than the certificate on the CWGC site. On Remembrance Sunday a friend, who is a member of the congregation at the Church, told me that she may be related. I wonder if it is possible that you could send me a photo of the cemetery and grave. I know that she would be very interested. I will forward this note to her and, if I may, will publish your letter on the website. We might hear from someone who knows more detail.

14 November 2008

You may publish my email, but please remove my address. The war cemetery occupies a small percentage of a municipal cemetery, which itself is set against a backdrop of the Défense skyline, with its many towers and "Grande Arche". There are several hundred French war dead and the Commonwealth graves share the ground with those of their fallen allies.

What's striking about the Commonwealth graves is:
- The casualties are from very early in the conflict (autumn 1914)
- They are arranged in chronological order, so it is possible to walk down the lines and advance through the months of September and October 1914.

Of course, the biggest question is "Why are these soldiers buried here, 100 kilometres from the front line?"

I'll try to get an answer from the people at the cemetery.

14 November 2008

Dear Joe
Could these individuals have fallen in retreat?

15 & 19 November 2008

I've been looking at the early days of WWI. I'd forgotten how close the Germans did get to Paris. There was a British Expeditionary Force (BEF) on the ground at the time. They engaged the Germans at Mons in Belgium. They then fell back to Le Cateau in northern France where there was a major battle on the 26th August 1914. There must have been fierce fighting "Of the 40,000 Allied men fighting at Le Cateau: 7,800 were injured or killed”. They then continued south to Paris.

The Essex Regiment were present at Le Cateau ( so Bertie Millbank may have been injured at Le Cateau and died a month later.

It looks as though the BEF was a "standing army" ready for any emergency. Bertie Millbank had probably signed up before the war started.

The Essex Regiment no longer exists ( and is now part of the Royal Anglian Regiment.

I haven't yet got a camera, but I found this image on the net. It shows the cemetery (not the Commonwealth graves) and some of the buildings of "La Défense" behind it. ( I visited today and the guardian knew of no reason why there should be British war dead buried there.

However, I did find a page in French on the web that says that the soldiers were buried there, having died in one of the various hospitals in Neuilly.

Interestingly enough, there is the grave of a Scots Guard (Houldsworth) who died on the same day as Bertie Millbank. His inscription says that he was injured during the first battle of the Aisne. Apparently, that was an allied offensive (French and the British Expeditionary Force) which started on 13th September 1914 and took place along the River Aisne, east of Soissons. This is 100 kms NE of Paris. The offensive failed to break through German lines and both sides dug in, beginning trench warfare and the "race to the sea" movement. (

23 November 2008

Many thanks for this information which I will pass on. La Défense is, if I am right, is the modern quarter of Paris. About 15 years ago I went with a friend on an organised coach trip to Paris for a weekend's sightseeing. We stayed at a hotel nearby.

23 November 2008

1) Just looked at the image again and you can actually make out the war graves. Over on the very right, just under the hedge, where you can see white lines as the graves are blurred into each other.
2) La Défense is basically the business sector although there are a few blocks of flats. Plenty of towers belonging to banks, insurance, telecoms, petrol companies etc I've worked there, off and on, for over 20 years. You probably stayed in one of the hotels at the Pont de Neuilly.

Monday, 1 December 2008


Blackmore Area Local History is one year old today!! Welcome to this month’s round-up of local history and heritage in and around Blackmore, Essex.

Concerns about Stansted expansion and historic environment

“Allowing more flights from Stansted Airport in Essex, "will inflict additional pollution and noise on the surrounding population" including medieval Hatfield Forest, it [the Council for the Protection of Rural England] claimed”.

Uttlesford Local History Fair

“Spiced Apple” has announced that a Local History Fair will be held on Saturday 28 March 2009 in the historic town of Saffron Walden in North West Essex. More detail can be found on . This is out of our local area but may be worth a visit.

History House Move

Keldon writes: “Just to let you know that I've changed the location of my news page. It's now in case you wanted to update your links as I do get visitors from your site.

“I must say I very much enjoy your site. I know how much work must go into it. Keep up the good work!”

Blackmore History: Website

Visitors will see that this has been greatly expanded during November. Do take a look at

Blackmore History: Blogspot

A cross reference to Ongar War Memorial Hospital has appeared on the following site:

Notes and Queries

Notes and Queries is a new section, beginning this month, on this site. See correspondence relating to Bertie Millbank, a school in Blackmore, the Giles Charity in Stondon Massey and other questions asked by correspondents.

Ingatestone and Fryerning

Brentwood Borough Council provide a short history of these two amalgamated ancient civil parishes. Go to:

Final words on the Great War

Preserving Essex Regiment records for the future – compiling a digital database of servicemen

“Have you forgotten yet?”

… and a World War II story from Essex

Links list

Please see Blackmore History News for 1 November 2008 for links or go to

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Blackmore Remembers

“Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning: We will remember them.”

This project is a tribute to not only those who died during the conflict but also all those who endured the conflict:
- those men who fought and returned, some with dreadful injuries and memories
- those women who worked on the ‘Home Front’, some in munitions factories, others on the land

11 November 1920: The Cenotaph and The Unknown Warrior

On the morning of 11th November 1920 - the second anniversary of the armistice - the Unknown Warrior was drawn in a procession in London. This was the body of a man killed during the First World War and represented all those who died who had no known grave. The procession paused at the Cenotaph (the war memorial on Whitehall designed by Edwin Lutyens), which was then unveiled by King George V. At 11 o'clock there was a two minutes silence, and the body was then taken to Westminster Abbey where it was buried at the west end of the nave. To the surprise of the organisers, in the week after the burial an estimated 1,250,000 people visited the abbey, and the site is now one of the most visited war graves in the world.

11 November 1919: The First Armistice Day

The annual remembrance of those who died in the War began on Tuesday 11th November 1919. The order for a two minutes’ silence was given by King George V the previous Friday, 7th November. Reeve wrote: “The first Anniversary of the signing of the provisional Armistice and the cessation of hostilities has been commemorated today. The somewhat frantic order was given for the solemn observance of two minutes at 11 o’clock on the 11th day of the 11th month, at which time last year the signatories affixed their names to the important documents. During those two minutes the police were instructed to “hold up” traffic in the streets, the railway-trains everywhere came to a standstill, soldiers in the barracks stood to attention; his Majesty’s ships shut off steam: factories and mines held their breath, and the population generally was invited to “remember in silence the glorious dead”. The signal was given in London by the firing of maroons, and in country places by the chiming of the hour by the Church clock duly regulated to Greenwich time, or by the ceasing of the church bell, tolled for five minutes previously. In Stondon the people watched for the bell’s signal which I myself gave, and the children at School and adults outside joined in giving thanks for the great Victory”.
Armistice Day has been commemorated unbroken since 1919. From 1956 the day observed changed to the second Sunday in November.

11 November 1918: Cessation of Hostilities

Extract from ‘Notes For A Parish History’ (ERO T/P 188/3) written by Revd. E. H. L Reeve of Stondon Massey (Essex).

11th November 1918

The Armistice was signed at 5 o’clock this morning, to take effect from 11 o’clock. The news was known early in London, and was made known by the hooting of sirens and the noise of maroons. Some in Stondon heard the distinct bells at Brentwood. But it was not till the afternoon that definite tidings reached the villages and then it filtered through chiefly the form of private messages. News came to Stondon that flags were being hoisted on the Military Hospital at Ongar, and that the veteran Field-Marshall Sir Evelyn Wood VC had visited the place and communicated the splendid message to the wounded men. As soon as I had this official intelligence the Stondon Church bells were chimed with all the old vigour by Ernest Baines, our sometime sexton. His son, a young fellow of 19 bearing the same name, has recently been wounded in one of the last engagements on the Italian Front and is in Hospital in Italy with injuries (as we at present understand) to both legs.

Distant rockets and other tokens of joy were heard around us as the evening advanced.


We are today where history and current affairs meet.

Welcome to a special edition of Blackmore History News commemorating the end of the First World War. This is the first of two summaries containing recent items of interest. (The second summary will appear on 1 December).

The new website has a number of pages associated with the First World War. These include:
- Great War Gateway (an index of items within the mini site plus themed links to this blog)
- Blackmore Remembers – those from the village who gave their lives
- Blackmore Remembers – those who returned from war
- Stondon Massey Remembers – those named on the War Memorial Tablet

Items from the ‘Blackmore Area Local History’ area

A book remembering those of Billericay who gave their lives during the First World War has just been released. It is the painstaking work of Mrs Karen Dennis who has looked at government records, newspapers and death certificates to track down the stories behind those on the War Memorial. For more information go to:


To mark 90 years since the Armistice, Rachel Duffett will be giving a talk on the Western Front today at County Hall with a further presentation at the Essex Book Festival in March 2009. Follow link:


Epping Forest Guardian has re-published a poem written by a soldier in World War One. It was unearthed during research into the names of those on the War Memorial at Epping. John Duffell has compiled a record of newspaper articles shedding new light on the period. I do hope that Mr Duffell will publish his work, either on the Internet or in classic booklet form. (James Gosling, born Blackmore, is remembered on this Memorial – see entry 5.11.08).

Other items of interest
Bonfire Night suspended during WW1
Read more here:

History magazines: November 2008
BBC History magazine (which should be purchased for the striking cover alone!) includes a special supplement linked to the ninetieth anniversary of the Armistice with particular emphasis on the final days of the First World War. Follow this link for more …
BBC Who Do You Think You Are? magazine also covers the Armistice and celebrity stories of their ancestors taken from the BBC series ‘My Family At War’. There is also a supplementary pocket book entitled ‘Trace Your First World War Ancestors’ written by Martin Purdy. This gives the family historian all the background information he or she needs to know in order to do their own WDYTYA research. Follow this link for more …
Family History Monthly (December 2008), again covers “the day peace broke out” but provides advice to genealogists guide to searching for their World War One soldiers on the Internet. It’s banner “90 Years of Peace” is, alas, misleading.

Sidney Lucas
One of five remaining war veterans, Sidney Lucas, died on 6 November.

Wilfred Owen

Wilfred Owen, war poet, was killed on 4th November 1918. Amid the celebrations for the Armistice, at noon his mother received a telegram telling of his death. His poetry is dark, vivid, stark and somewhat disturbing. Links to other sites are given below.
War Poems
‘Anthem for doomed youth’ has reference to ‘sad shires’ and ‘bugles’.
‘Dulce et decorum est’ is perhaps his greatest poem.


Later we commemorate the events of 11 November 1918, 1919 and 1920 but it was on 11 November 1921 that the first official Poppy Day was held, organised by the British Legion. The symbol was inspired by the poem ‘In Flanders Fields’ written by John McCrae. Follow this link to the poem:

Western Front Association
The Western Front Association, Essex branch, was present at the recent Essex Record Office conference ‘Sad Shires and Bugles’. The group hold two monthly meetings, one at Hornchurch the other at Hatfield Peverel. I asked whether their interest was confined to the Western Front. He representative answered to the negative. Other campaigns such as the Dardenelles were also covered. Formore information follow this link:

From News Statesman
“Amid the war graves of Belgium, Tom Farrell finds a family story tangled up with the birth of modern Ireland”: ‘Side by Side They Fell’.

How We Remember The Great War Today

Contributions and reflections from across the net:
Dan Todman, senior lecturer at Queen Mary College, London.

Daily Mail article that mingles the current Remembrance with extracts of Richard Emdon’s new book, ‘The Soldier’s War’. Essex interest is contained in this article with reference to Brentwood and Southend.

Coverage of Cenotaph proceedings at Whitehall on 9 November 2008. The writer noted a noticeable increase in numbers attending.

Blogspot break

After this significant date in history, blackmoreblogspot will be taking a break. We will be back on 1 December.

Links: Researching the First World War

If you wish to explore the subject of the ‘First World War’ further, the following links to websites are recommended.

Great War Archive, published by Oxford University
“The aim of this initiative was to collect together material related to the First World War held by members of the public to help keep the memory alive of the sacrifices made during World War One. The final collection will be made available free of charge via the Web on the 11th November 2008, the 90th anniversary of the Armistice.”

Have I missed anything? Please E mail so that I can update this page and share it with all our readers.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission was established to commemorate those who fell in the Great War. Their database is available online.

‘Hut six’ is an impressive ‘search engine’ for entries on the CWGC site.

‘Soldiers who died in the Great War’:
In 1921 His Majesty's Stationery Office published, on behalf of and by authority of the War Office, two lists of those who died during the First World War. More than 703,000 names are included in this database.

Researching a soldier in the British Army in the First World War? Go to 1914-1918
This is a page from the site, ‘The Long Long Trail’:

Channel 4’s 2006 landmark TV series ‘Not Forgotten’ launched a website called ‘Lost Generation’:

In terms of more general sites, Ancestry ( contains many records of servicemen. During November 2008 it is allowing free access to all World War One records – but be warned, many records no longer exist.

BBC. New site commemorating the 90th anniversary of the end of the First World War
Website which commemorated the 80th anniversary of the end of WW1

Great War


… and finally a Wiki question
How did the Great War affect Essex? Discuss!

Book Review: The Greatest Day In History

This is not a local history book. It covers succinctly, though with an eye for detail, the final days of the First World War through events on the battlefields of the Western Front and the diplomatic efforts to secure an Armistice.

Nicholas Best subtitles the book, ‘How the Great War really ended’.

The Armistice itself was signed at just after 5.00am. On the 11th day of the 11th month we learn that at Mons the fighting continued after the Armistice had been signed. That previous evening the Canadians had recaptured the land which the Allies had fled in August 1914. The view of the commanders was to gain more ground than was lost initially. Men were killed in the final hour before 11am. “The Western Front saw something like 10,944 casualties on 11 November, including 2,738 dead. It was almost as many as D-Day”.

“The Armistice terms were outrageous”, Best tells us. Throughout the book there is the ominous foreboding that this would not be the war to end all wars.

‘The Greatest Day in History’ by Nicholas Best (Phoenix, 2008) is available in paperback.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Ninety Years On. Remembering the First World War (20)

Extract from ‘Notes For A Parish History’ (ERO T/P 188/3) written by Revd. E. H. L Reeve of Stondon Massey (Essex).

10th November 1918

At the historic banquet at the Guildhall last evening Mr Lloyd George was able to allude to an armistice with Germany as imminent, but news of it has not been received.

The historic banquet referred to was the Lord Mayor's Banquet, a feast held to honour the outgoing Mayor. The procession and the feast itself has continued regardless of war and other events for many centuries. In 1918 the Prime Minister "would have loved to have announced it [the Armistice] in the Guildhall, to thunderous applause from all sides, but there was still no word from Compiegne" [Best, 2008, p125].

The final part of Reeve's manuscript may be read at 10.30am on 11.11.08.

Best, Nicholas. The Greatest Day in History (Phoenix, 2008)

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Blackmore: Remembrance Sunday 2008

Pictures taken at the War Memorial and the Parade Service at St Laurence Church, Blackmore.

A large crowd gathered at Blackmore War Memorial at 10.50am today for a short service, to lay wreaths and to observe the traditional two minutes silence. Members of the Fullwell Brass Band accompanied the singing of 'O God, our help in ages past'. Prayers were said by the Vicar of Blackmore, Revd. Canon Ivy Crawford, and Baptist Church minister, Revd. Neil Blake.

At the Parade Service which followed in the Parish Church, the theme of peace-makers was interspersed with the remembrance of the end of the First World War ninety years ago. At the conclusion nine red balloons were released in the churchyard to represent the nine decades since the Armistice. A cross of poppies was laid at the grave of Ted Sutton, the only WW1 Commonwealth War Grave in the churchyard. Poppies were also placed at the graves of other men who died of their injuries following the First World War as well as Joy Woollard, who died during World War Two.

Blackmore Remembers

Remembrance Sunday
Service at the War Memorial
(photo 2007)

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Personal Reflections on the Great War

The three-month commemoration of the Great War on this site has taken longer to research and compile. It has additionally been something of a personal journey. As the series draws to a close I thought that I would share some personal reflections on the First World War.

Anyone who attends a quiz night will know that one of the most frequently asked history questions surrounds the event that sparked the Great War: the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife at Sarajevo, in Bosnia, on 28 June 1914. A diplomatic incident ensued: Austria declared war on Serbia; Russia mobilized; Germany declared war on Russia; Germany declared war on France, invading Belgium in an attempt to knock out France; Britain declared war on Germany, because she had broken a guarantee made in 1839 to respect Belgian neutrality.

The event was the straw that broke the camel’s back. British politicians, over the previous twenty years, had become increasingly concerned about Germany’s rising commercial and maritime activity. Britain had been rearming. Like other nations Britain went to war “for honour” which seems madness now – but these were different times.

The war which the parties engaged was to be long and drawn out: bogged down, quite literally in the trenches of the Western Front. It ended relatively quickly when the Germans realised huge losses and sought an armistice. One commentator suggests that the enemy suffered more from the effects of Spanish ‘flu which hastened the end of the stalemate. But was the Armistice, in effect, a ceasefire only to recommence in 1939? Conversations gathered by Revd. Reeve of Stondon Massey record a very appropriate sound-byte that the war which seemed “a draw” in 1917, according to sportsman Capt. Fred Fane then the hope of an invalid at Blake Hall (recorded as late as 10th September 1918) that the Americans would bring the war to a close by 1920.

At the outset, was there fervour of patriotism that led men to sign up for ‘King and Country’? When Albert enlisted on 7th February 1916 he was one month short of his seventeenth birthday. That same day Revd. Reeve records:

“Feb. 10th has been appointed as the day on which the new Military Service Act will come into operation and on March 1st all but those specially exempted between the ages of 18 and 41 years will be held to have been enrolled.” [ERO T/P 188/3]

Albert knew that sooner or later he would be called up, but not until after March 1917, the month of his own eighteen birthday. Whether his friends were enlisting and he decided to go along too can only be surmised. But he must have lied convincingly about his age on enrolment.

What seems clear is that men enlisted because they did not want to miss out on this great adventure: to go abroad was exciting. There was also an expectation of serving Britain because individuals formed part of an imperialistic British Empire. “Rule Britannia”! This is not to criticise but to observe that these were different times to our own.

There are countless examples of young men enlisting early. William Roberts enlisted probably to avenge for the killing of his father, and ‘Smiler’ having admitted to being aged 17, returns to the recruiting office to give a year of birth as 1896 implying that he was already eighteen years of age.

Perhaps in common with other civilian volunteers Albert received six months’ training before being sent to the Front. By August 1916 the allies were engaged in the Somme offensive. As a Gunner, Albert would have formed part of a team of six. It was noisy work. Both Revd. Reeve (of Stondon Massey) and Revd. Andrew Clark (of Great Leighs) record in their diaries at their respective homes the noise of gunfire heard on that first day.

“1st July 1916

“As I write, the reverberation of the great guns and explosion of mines are shaking the windows of the Rectory and of all the other houses, I suppose, in the southern and south-eastern counties of England. There is evidently a very heavy bombardment in progress. The munition-making of many months is beginning, we may hope, to have its effect upon the position.”

Harry Patch is Britain’s last surviving Tommy. At the age of 108 he wrote an autobiographical account of his survival in the Trenches at Passendaele (1917). He speaks of shell shock: “a nervous soldier was as much danger to the rest as he was to himself” [Patch, p73]. In May 1917 Albert was discharged with shell shock, returning later in the War only to be taken prisoner.

Very few who served spoke about their war experiences. Information relating to Albert has only recently come to light through research.

William Dawes (my great uncle) was killed in Gallipoli. The fact that he is remembered some fourteen years later on his brother’s grave in his native North Weald is indicative of the memory held of him by his family. During the course of research I have found other examples: William Scudder of Blackmore is another. Jacob Wiltshire, also of Blackmore, has a headstone bearing reference to his brother who died some years before, lying next to him in an unmarked grave.

War Memorials are also the symbols and epitaphs to men who are buried in a foreign field, that place the poet says is ‘Forever England’.

In ‘Last Post’, subtitled ‘the final word from our First World War soldiers’, the auto-biographers recall a common theme of fellow men being blown up or fatally wounded by shell-fire, hit by snipers bullets etc. It makes graphic reading, detached from those events, yet alone to experience first-hand the hell of trench warfare and the unsaid words that it could have been them. Life and death seemed a random event. With millions of men going through the same experience it is small wonder that no one spoke about these events. Perhaps these were events best to erase from memory if possible and not to talk about over Sunday tea with the family.

In my work over recent months I tried to detach the battlefield events of the Western Front from the local happenings at home in Essex, but it is impossible. “Only those who were there can tell what really happened. Tell of the suffering and misery” (Cecil Withers)[Arthur, p88].

A few years ago I used to be indifferent to the remembrance of those who served two generations before me. Whether that is because no one spoke of the events and the importance of remembrance, I do not know. Indifference probably changes with age, an interest in family history perhaps and a reappraisal on television of the events of World War One. ‘Not Forgotten’ was a landmark Channel 4 television series presented about the First World War by Ian Hislop, and was Sunday teatime viewing. Quite rightly, it is difficult now to avoid the commemoration on television. If we fail to remember we also fail to learn. I believe that history does repeat itself: only many think it does not.

The other recurrent theme in the book ‘Last Post’ is the futility of war: “getting nowhere”, reference to the progress of trench warfare (Albert ‘Smiler’ Marshall)[Arthur, p35]; “we fought because we were told to” (Harry Patch)[Arthur, p136]; “it was such a complete waste of lives” (George Charles)[Arthur, p191]; “for all the suffering and death I saw in the trenches, I never lost my faith. I still pray and I believe” (Cecil Withers)[Arthur, p87]. Some held a belief in God whilst others did not.

When we pause and think we realise that there was not a single person during that time who had not lost a family member, neighbour or friend. When you learn that one in five men who served from Blackmore died (or “made the supreme sacrifice”) you realise the huge loss of life which both allies and foe suffered.

In our modern age the closest we can perhaps come to understand the nation’s sense of loss was the feelings surrounding that week in 1997 when Diana, Princess of Wales, was tragically killed in a car crash. Prior to the funeral the nation seemed in shock and collective mourning. Human vulnerability, deep sadness, sometimes anger, but an overriding need to remember a life with gratitude. We might live in a different time but human suffering is timeless.

The experience of English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, who lied about his age to become a stretcher bearer (he was too old, RVW said he was 39 when in fact he was 41), is depicted musically in his ‘Pastoral Symphony’. Edward Elgar’s Cello Concerto is a more stiff-upper-lipped regret about a lost age. The Pastoral Symphony though is RVW’s ‘War Requiem’.

All this oral and musical history provides a vital link with the past. It’s a past that we hope never to return to, but it must serve as a reminder.

‘In the going down of the sun and in the morning we will remember them’.


Arthur, Max. Last Post. The Final Word from our First World War Soldiers (Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 2005)
Patch, Harry, with Emden, Richard. The Last Fighting Tommy (Bloombury, 2008)
Reeve, Rev. EHL. Chronicler of the Great War (published by Andrew Smith, 2008)

North Weald: Remembering ... William J. Dawes

William John Dawes, Lance Corporal, 1st Essex Regiment was my great-uncle. He served in the ‘failed’ eight month campaign in Gallipoli which was fought by Commonwealth and French forces in an attempt to force Turkey out of the war. Twelve Tree Copse Cemetery was created after the Armistice when graves were brought in from isolated sites and small burial grounds on the battlefields of April to August and December 1915. There are now 3,360 First World War servicemen buried or commemorated in the cemetery. 2,226 of the burials are unidentified but special memorials commemorate many casualties known or believed to be buried among them, including 142 officers and men of the 1st Essex who died on 6th August 1915. My great-uncle was one of those who fell on that day.

He is commemorated on the War Memorial at North Weald and is also remembered by his family on the grave of his brother, Henry, who died in 1929 and was buried in the village churchyard.

The ‘Commonwealth War Graves Commission’, who records his name as J. W. Dawes, includes the following citation:

Friday, 7 November 2008

Ninety Years On. Remembering the First World War (19)

Extract from ‘Notes For A Parish History’ (ERO T/P 188/3) written by Revd. E. H. L Reeve of Stondon Massey (Essex).

7th November 1918

On Sunday last special reference was made to our victories, and to the paramount importance of thanksgiving. This should become still more and more pronounced as the final Peace draws nearer.

Next entry: 10th November 1918

New Book: Blackmore Remembers

Drawing on material used in this on-line project, 'Blackmore Remembers' commemorates ninety years since the end of the First World War. Available price £1.50 from the Priory Church of St Laurence, Blackmore. Available through this site, but including P&P. E mail for more information.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Ninety Years On. Remembering the First World War (18)

Extract from ‘Notes For A Parish History’ (ERO T/P 188/3) written by Revd. E. H. L Reeve of Stondon Massey (Essex).

6th November 1918

Events of the greatest importance are daily taking place. The terms of the armistice have been fully agreed upon by all the Allies at their Council at Versailles. President Wilson is always insisting that the terms of Peace must be so framed at last as to secure a lasting basis, and not by their vindictiveness to cause a sense of injustice and so sow the seeds of future animosities and wars.