Sunday, 27 January 2008

Blackmore: Crime In The Sixteenth Century

An extract from the booklet, “Blackmore. A Short History”, available from the Priory Church of St Laurence and Megarry’s Antique Shop. The church is open to visitors from the beginning of May until early October, Tuesday to Friday afternoons, 1.00 to 4.00pm and on Sunday afternoons from 2.30 to 4.30pm with Teas In The Tower on the first Sunday in the month. Other books in the series are also available including a new Guide Book.

From 1583 to 1615, with the exception of 1588, Blackmore had as its curate, “the notorious” Edward Binder. By all accounts he appears to have been quite a rogue. Ecclesiastical Court records are littered with appearances. At Romford, in 1588:

Edmund Bynder. Clerk. Detect for not teaching Mr Nowells Catechism and for not expounding the scripture not being licensed. He said that he did catechise in Mr Nowells catechism and that he readeth the Homilies and doth not expound the scriptures [ERO D/AZ/1/8].

The following year:
Edmund Bynder. Curate. That he being Curate of Blackmore sundry times there was no service said as viz – the first and second of November last. [ERO D/AZ/1/9].

Then, in 1608:

Edward Bynder. Curate. He giveth no warning of marriages Christenings or burials. No Quarter sermons and doth hinder others that are willing to come, who are good preachers, to the greefe of the countrie thereabout. Alleged that he hath the monthly sermons and hindereth none that as are not licensed. [ERO D/AZ/1/8].

Edward Binder’s misdemeanours led to his suspension from duties.

There is an incident where William Mott, the curate in 1588, was prevented from carrying out his duties. He was appointed by the Crown rather than the Smyth family, who held the manor at the time. Allegations made at Brentwood refer to:

Thomas Smyth, junior. For resisting and withstanding Mr Mott, not suffering him to come into the parish church of Blackmore so that by those means he cannot execute and discharge that duty or function that belongeth unto him

Frances Knockstubb. Detect ut supra, and further that he did Charles Smyth, his man, did haule try and drawe Mr Mott up and down the chyard and in the ch porch upon the xxx [30th] of march in the time of ye Divine Service, and did rent and teere his cloak and also ye he wish one Edward another of Mr Smyth’s men upon the xxix [29th] of march did rend and draire the said Mr Mott out of the churchyard [ERO D/AZ/1/8].

“Edward, another of Mr Smyth’s men” must have been Edward Blacketh, his servant. With Francis Smythe, he was bound over to “keep the peace for one whole year” [ERO Q/SR 111/49]. Although the offence is not recorded, it may relate to another incident, heard before the Quarter Sessions in July 1588:

We present Francis Smith of Blackmore, gentleman, “for strikinge at the Constable at the Churche gate with his sword drawen, and for fetchinge John Reve of Blackmore out of the Churche forcably with his sword drawen, which John Reve was locked up in ye Churche by the Constable” [ERO Q/SR 106/28].

There is not space to record in detail
- Alice Godsave, who would not say who was the father of her illegitimate child
- Those who did not attend church or communion
- The man found sleeping most irreverently on the altar
- People selling ware (and drinking or guzzling) during service time
- The man in the chamber alone with a Scotch woman at The Bull.

Blackmore: Revd Simon Lynch, Puritan

In the Priory Church of St Laurence is a memorial to a most colourful Blackmore character, Simon Lynch.

During an era of religious intolerance and political upheaval, in Essex, between 1643 and 1660, more preachers were ejected from their livings and replaced by Puritans than in any other County of England. This is not surprising because the County was a Parliamentarian stronghold with supporters keen to improve the quality of preaching. If the preacher was known to be a Royalist, or, maintained neutrality, then they were ejected. One such individual was Simon Lynch who was buried in the church. His epitaph reads:

Here lyeth the body of Simon Lynch
Rector of Runwell
Who for fearing God and the King
Was sequestered, prosecuted and persecuted
To the day of his death
By Gog and Magog,
And left issue, Elizabeth, Sarah, Simon
And Ithiel
Unto whome the Lord be mercifull
Who died ye 19th June 1660
Aged 60 yr.

Simon Lynch was appointed Rector of Runwell in 1629, and later, from 1646 or 1647, Curate of Blackmore. He was replaced as Rector at Runwell in 1644, by “Mr Oakely … a godly, able preaching minister” [Smith, 1934, p256]. An earlier entry before the Essex Archdeaconry Court, in March 1635/6, at Ingatestone states:

Simon Linch. Rector of Runwell: speaking incesscent and vasumly speeches in the chancell near the Communion table. Admonished and dismissed. [ERO D/AZ/2/14 p15].

Stephen Smyth’s appointment of Lynch to Blackmore was unpopular with the parishioners. This is documented in the Record of Parochial Inquisition held at The Black Boy Inn, Chelmsford on 5th September 1650:

That Stephen Smith, Esq., receives the great and small Tythes of the said Parish. That Symon Lynch, Clerke, supplyeth the Cure by the appointment of the said Stephen Smith, Esq who payes him for his Paynes thirtye pounds per Ann. That the said Symon Lynch, Clerk, was putt out of Runwell for his scandalous life, and brought into this parish without the Consent of the well Affected Inhabitants. [Smith, 1934, p253].

In Simon Lynch’s Will, written in 1659, he specified the words to be inscribed on his tombstone. It bewails his plight – that of being taunted to death by Gog, the named enemy of God, the Antichrist in the Book of Revelations, whom Lynch considered to be the Parliamentarians of Cromwell’s day.

Lynch lived just long enough to know of the Restoration of the Monarchy and the Church. He died just as he was about to take re-possession of the parsonage at Runwell following the ejection of Nicholas Greene whom his son described disparagingly as “a broken puritanical shopkeeper”.

Smith, H. The Ecclesiastical History of Essex. (1934)

Saturday, 26 January 2008

Blackmore: Priory Church of St Laurence

Extract from the former Guide to the Priory Church of St Laurence, Blackmore, written in 1966 by Constance Simmons. Text updated for this blog. This Guide was superseded by a newly written edition in 2005.

It has been suggested that the earliest possible date for the first building of the church is 1150, but a more likely date is 1170. The earliest style of architecture in the present church is late 12th century. Remains of this can be seen at the west end of the Nave, in the doorway to the Tower and the arches up in the walls north and south of the West End.

We know that Richard, Bishop of London (1155-62) gave authority for the foundation of the priory. It was endowed by the de Samford Family who held the Manor of Fingrith. The Foundation was for a prior and 12 canons of the Augustine Order. There are records of the Priory of Blackmore sending canons to act as ministers at nearby Margaretting, Willingale Andrew (Willingale Spain), and further afield, at Great Hormead in Hertfordshire.

There are indications that the original priory church had a lofty nave with side aisles which had lean-to roofs at a lower elevation. There is a string on each outer side of the west end arches where the side aisles roofs rested. The west wall of the nave was an outside wall and the Norman doorway was the main entrance.

The Priors worshipped regularly each day. Their route through the cloisters into church was illuminated by means of a cresset stone.

During the 13th century the priory must have flourished. The north aisle is 13th century, early English in style and may have been part of an enlargement project. The stone pillars of the north aisle probably date from this period. Later still, towards the end of the 14th century, one roof was erected over the nave and side aisles, with good rib mouldings and with bosses and shields at the intersections.

The bell tower was built in 1400. It is one of the finest of its kind. We now know that the nave roof, north door and bell tower are all contemporary.

Blackmore Priory was one of the first monastic establishments to be dissolved by Henry VII. In 1527 many of the smaller communities were liquidated – conclusive evidence that this had continued as a small priory. It was granted with its endowments to Cardinal Wolsey. Later it was returned to the Crown (1529). Next it was given to Waltham Abbey (1531) which later was dissolved with other larger monasteries and our priory was returned to the Crown.

John Smyth bought the Priory from Henry VIII in 1540. He was auditor to the King. The Smyth family were to hold an influential place in the life of the village for five generations, through to 1721. Various inscribed slabs in the floor of the Church indicate a succession of Smyths.

The Smyths built Smyth Hall half a mile from the church using material from the priory including stained glass. Smyth Hall was demolished in 1844 and some of the stained glass found its way to Brizes at Kelvedon Hatch.

Throughout the middle ages, the parishioners of Blackmore had used the Nave of the church to meet as well as attend worship. John granted the parishioners use of the Chancel but when his son, Thomas, inherited the Priory he claimed the chancel to be his own and removed the right of the chancel (1581), but the parishioners asserted their claim to the church. The claim was upheld in the Ecclesiastical Court in 1583.

The north and south dormer windows and the brick piers and arches of the south arcade belong to the Tudor period, but whether they were built before the period of destruction or were part of the reinstatement, it is almost impossible to decide.

From 1600 to the present time there have been no structural alterations of importance.

Blackmore's Parish Registers of Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials date from 1602. During the Civil War and under the influence of the Puritans the Church suffered neglect and disuse – as the gaps in the old Church Registers show.

Archdeacons visited the Church in 1686 and directed repairs which were – or were not – carried out. The existence of five bells in the tower was noted. These had been cast in Colchester about 1646.

In 1877 and 1898 - 1902 extensive restorations were carried out. In 1905 a carved wooden screen was erected at the entrance to the chancel. This will now be seen on the north side of the chancel enclosing the vestry, having been moved in 1988.

Kitchen and toilet facilities were created in the north west corner in 1990 and a Children's corner enclosed in the south west corner, and renamed the Rainbow Corner, in 2005.

Blackmore: D W Coller. People's History of Essex (1861)

An extract from ‘The People’s History of Essex’ written in 1861 by D.W. Coller.

Proceeding two or three miles further to the west we reach Blackmore, which is bounded by Ongars, and forms the verge of the Hundred in that direction. It is now a small and pleasant village, considerably improved of late years, but in old times it must have been a place of some importance as the site of a monastery and an occasional home of royalty. Henry VIII., as we have seen, was often at Jericho House, which appears to have been substantially a portion of the priory. since, if it were not actually connected with the buildings it stood close to them, and formed the mansion of the manor of Blackmore, the whole of which belonged to the monks. The house is still standing within whose retired shade the stern religious reformer sheltered his vices from the observation of the followers of his court; but of course it has undergone many changes, improvements, and enlargements, to adapt it to modern requirements. Sir Jacob Ackworth, who purchased it, at the beginning of the last century, of the family of Smyth, to whom it was granted at the dissolution, made many additions to it ; and in the course of the works a small leaden coffin, about a yard in length, and filled with bones, was exhumed. Other memorials of the past have occasionally been turned up on this spot; but, save the church near, not a stone or other fragment of the Priory now remains. Even the foundations are gone. We recollect some forty years ago [c1821] observing a stone which appeared to have been taken from the ruins, and upon which an inscription was still half legible, used as a door-step for a house in the neighbourhood. The shrubberies and lawns of Blackmore House have long since extended, and flower-beds have been planted, and kitchen gardens flourish in luxuriance over the very spots where the friars feasted and the monks prayed. The monastery was never of very great importance. It was founded by the family of De Sandford, either in the reign of Henry II. or King John, for canons regular of the order of St. Augustine; but though it was endowed with several manors, and had lands and other rights in Margaretting, Willingale, Broomfield, Shellow Bowels, Norton [Mandeville], Writtle, South-weald, Kelvedon [Hatch] and Stondon [Massey], its whole income in 1527 at £85. 9s. 7d. Although the reformation had not commenced, it was dissolved in that year, and the property granted to Cardinal Wolsey, for part of the college he was endowing at Oxford. On the fall of the Cardinal, two years after, it reverted to the crown, and soon after passed in exchange to the abbey of Waltham, which, by the deed, had a grant of a fair of three days, on the 9th, 10th and 11th of August; and less than a century ago [c1780] this was a cattle mart of some importance. On the general crash of the monastic property, the manors were granted by the king to the Smyth family, descended from Sir Michael Carrington, standard-bearer to Richard I. in the holy war, who subsequently acquired other property in the neighbourhood, and was long located at Smyth’s Hall. The property of the parish is now [1861] divided. The manor of Blackmore, and that of Fingrith, once in the Mildmay family, belong to James Parker, Esq. The latter was originally held by the De Sandfords and De Veres of the king, in capite by grand sergeanty, viz. “the tenant having the honour of being chamberlain to the Queen of England, of keeping her chamber, and the door of the same, on the day of her coronation; and of having for his fee the furniture of the chamber, the beds, basins, &c;” but this has been laid aside, with other ridiculous usages and tenures of the former times. Though the claim was made at the coronation of Queen Anne, and again at that of Queen Caroline in 1727, it was disallowed.

The Church, there is no doubt, was a part of the old priory. The cloisters, in fact, appear to have abutted upon the wall of the south aisle; and it was here that the monks assembled for matin worship and mass. The western end appears to have been part of the original old fabric, low, and heavy; but upon this has been engrafted an elegant, light and lofty building; and at the point where the two join, the tasteful pilaster of a later day may be seen dove-tailed into a heavy Norman pillar. The tower is of wood, on the same principle and pattern as that of Margaretting, - probably by the same architect, as both belonged to the monastery; and Suckling supposes that the massive Norman walls and columns were left because the monks contemplated raising a goodly tower of stone, but having emptied their treasury by the other works, their taste yielded to necessity, and they wound up with a spire of timber. The sacred edifice is dedicated to St Lawrence, whose martyrdom is represented in stained glass over the door; and on the wainscoted roof of oak are the royal arms, among them those of Richard II., and of some ancient and noble families, who are probably thus commemorated for their gifts or endowments to the monastery. At the end of the chancel is the burial place of the Smyths, with its decayed tombs and half-obliterated inscriptions. It is a singular fact, however, that only one solitary remnant of the funeral monuments of the monastic inhabitants remains. An old grey stone, worn by time and tread of the worshippers, and robbed of its elegant-shaped cross of brass, lies in the chancel; some years ago might be traced on this, in the Saxon character – “To the memory of the just Prior, Thomas De Vere”. Here too, lies one of the expelled clergy and victims of the Commonwealth: on a grey marble stone, beneath the arms of the Lynch’s appears the following epitaph:

“Here lyeth the body of Simon Lynch, Rector of Runwell, who for fearing God and King, was sequestered, prosecuted, and persecuted, to the day of his death of Gog and Magog, and left issue Elizabeth, Sarah, Symon, and Ithnel, to whom the Ld. Be merciful, who died on the 19th of June, 1660, aged 60 years”.

Local benevolence in former days provided largely for the poor of this parish. A house, garden, and orchard, called Claydons, were left by George Callice in 1580; the rent of the Bull public-house and 10 acres of land, by Thomas Almond in 1728; a rent-charge of £3. 5s. secured by John Witham, on lands at Blackmore; 10s. left by H. Waller, in 1601, out of a farm at Ongar; £2 left by J. Simonds in 1606, out of Copyhold Farm; £4 from the house and garden left by William Peacock, and purchased by the parish in 1724, subject to certain charges; these to be distributed in bread. Sir S. Powell in 1618 left 40s. a year out of Smyth’s Hall, for eight poor women; and a rent-charge of £3. 5s., purchased by the parish with various donations, is distributed amongst 18 of the poorest. Bell Rope Piece – half an acre of land – is left to supply bell-ropes. These charities form together a handsome income. Pauperism, however, is as rife in this parish as elsewhere – so true is it that charity often destroys the self-reliant spirit which can alone form a class of independent poor.

Blackmore: Caton Family History

Wendy Snowdon is a descendent of the Caton family. In April 2007 she posted an entry on the ‘Guest Book’ page of .

Entry on Message Board

Hi there. My gtx3 grandfather, William Caton and his wife, Lydia, lived at Wenlocks, Blackmore (Essex). William was born at Blackmore in c1797.

Henry Caton, brother to William, ran the butcher shop (1841 census). Gtx3 grandfather William and wife Lydia moved to Jennings Farm in Blackmore (1851 census).

The Catons (and there were plenty of them!) all seemed to have been born in Blackmore and most seemed to have died either there or Norton Mandeville.

My Gtx2.Grandfather was William Oliver Caton, he was born 1820 at Blackmore the son of William Caton and Lydia Oliver. He is shown on the 1841 census at Diggins in Willingale. He is buried in the churchyard opposite the former "Bell" public house.

My Gt.Grandfather was Robert Alfred Francis (of Willingale) and he married Clara Lydia Ann Caton (who is also buried in Willingale churchyard) in fact three Francis brothers married three Caton sisters!

Abraham Caton (1821-1897) brother of William Oliver Caton built a house at Blackmore called "The Rookery".

My ancestors are buried in St Laurence cemetery. I have visited lots of times and love the village.

I know quite a lot about my Catons but have no photos of them. Does any one out there have any? Perhaps long forgotten in an attic? Would love to see some.

My Gtx4 grandfather, Henry Caton (born 1760 died 1835) married Hester Burrell whose parents owned The Bull public house.

John Caton, nephew to William, emigrated to New Zealand in the 1800s. He staked a piece of land out there and named it "Catons Bay". He died in Australia in 1914.

Are there any Catons still living in the village?

Would love to hear from you.

Reply (April 2007)

I am always keen to help with people’s family history enquiries, if I am able, so E mailed an extract from my booklet 'Hatched Matched and Despatched'.

Bishop’s Transcripts

As we move into the nineteenth century more detail is given in the Registers [Source: Essex Record Office. D/CR 38. This is a Bishop’s transcript of Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1812 – 1865.]. For example of the 170 children baptised from 1812 to 1821, over one half have fathers who were labourers. There is the nobility: Esquire, appearing on five occasions and “base born” or “single woman”, appearing on ten occasions. Various professions and trades occur as expected: surgeon, farmer, bricklayer, carpenter, sawyer, baker, blacksmith, butcher, shopkeeper and grocer. The most intriguing is recorded in 1814: “soldier 69th Rgt” (William Horshin), probably serving at that time in the Napoleonic War.

Other professions found in the baptismal transcripts for the period include an egg merchant (1826), gardener (by the name of Bush!: 1829), cow doctor (1829), church clerk (named John Sutton, 1834), schoolmaster (1836) and hay binder (1842). There is also a reference to a goldsmith (1826) but his abode was London.

In 1821 there were nine burials, but four children were from the same family: Eliza Sitch (buried 13th October, age 6), James (17th October, 14), William (23rd October, 1), and Hannah (7th November, 4). (For more information, refer to 'Sitch Family History' on this site).

Child mortality remained high. In the first ten years of Queen Victoria’s reign (1837 to 1846) there were 93 burials. Of these, 12 were described as infants and a further 24 children under the age of ten, i.e. a death rate of 39 per cent before adulthood.

In 1845, two of the longest lived, Abraham Shuttleworth, aged 80 and Richard Stones, aged 87, ended their days in the Ongar Union Workhouse (at Stanford Rivers) where the poor were sent from the parish of Blackmore. The reorganisation of poor relief from 1834 (Poor Law Amendment Act) transferred responsibility away from the parish to a Board of Guardians.

William Caton was the Overseer for Blackmore and also Churchwarden.

Another Caton, Henry, was a butcher by trade. His father, buried on 9th October 1835, age 75, is described as “Henry Caton, Senior”.

Henry Caton married Ann Clark on 9th February 1813. They had nine children:

Henry: Baptised 7th November 1813
Harriott: Baptised 2nd April 1815
James: Baptised 13th November 1817
John: Baptised 31st May 1818
Ann Elizabeth: Baptised 13th February 1820
Emma: Baptised 24th February 1822
Charles: Burial recorded as 11th September 1823, Infant.
Esther: 7th March 1824
Stephen: 16th June 1827

Although Henry lived until 1858 and Ann to 1862, their children’s marriages are not recorded at Blackmore. There are two possible reasons. Firstly, after 1836, civil marriages were permitted. Secondly, and more plausible, the offspring probably migrated from the parish.

During the nineteenth century, the number of baptisms exceeds the number of burials by a proportion of two to one. This suggests a large growth in population but census returns show the population of the parish rose from 591, in 1801, to only 619, in 1901. It seems clear that many people left Blackmore to find their fame and fortune elsewhere: perhaps London and the suburbs, which were growing at a rapid rate.

Supplementary Question (May 2007)

My Gtx2 grandfather William Oliver Caton (1820-1901) states in his will of 1901: "As to my real estate I direct my said trustees to make sale and absolutely dispose of all my copyhold lands" etc etc. He then goes on to mention "namely all that field of pasture and copyhold land held of the Manor of Fingrith Hall Blackmore and adjoining my freehold house known as the "Poplars" and situate at Blackmore aforesaid and now in the occupation of Mrs Humphries Widow". He also mentions 3 other copyhold cottages situated at Blackmore. Could you tell me if this house, Poplars still exists and if so where it is situated?

Reply (June 2007)

Poplars is not named on the 1897 six inch ordnance survey map. According to Kelly's Directory 1890, Claude Julian Croft was its resident.

I was in Chelmsford Library and found a book titled "The Tithe Place Names of Blackmore" (date: 1846) has a lot of information on Blackmore families, including the Catons. It was produced by the Essex Place Names Project in 2003 in association with the Essex Society for Archaeology and History ( and the Essex Record Office. A copy is in Chelmsford Library and may be purchased from the Essex Record Office.

Henry Caton had a house shop and premises (#9) at TL605018.

The Catons owned several premises (# 8 to #13) plus many fields. The Bottle Inn (The Leather Bottle PH) is recorded as TL604018 so these premises at TL605018 are 100 metres to the east - i.e. on the north side of The Green. There is a Poplars Cottage there today. Next door is Laurences, a much bigger house. I wonder if this was Poplars? The church dedication is Laurence but anciently was spelt either Laurence or Lawrence. Is Laurences a modern name?

William Caton was licensee of the Leather Bottle between 1836 and 1850. The pub became owned by a Chelmsford Brewery in 1836. For more details see the history of the pub inside the main bar.

Response (June 2007)

I had a look on ERO Seax and found document D/DMa/B71/12 it’s a sale catalogue and lists the land etc of my Gt.Grandfather William Oliver Caton who lived at Diggens Farm, Willingale. He died there in 1901. The last paragraph states POPLARS, formerly Lawrences, Blackmore, a residence with 4 bedrooms, outbuildings, gardens and orchard and about 1 acre of meadow land. So it looks like the Laurences that you say is still in the village is the one mentioned in my Gt.Grandfathers will. That is indeed great news and a must for me to visit, thank you so much for that I am very grateful.

I have received the booklet Tithe Place Names of Blackmore from the ERO. It’s very interesting. Many of the places I never knew about and it has opened up a whole new avenue of research for me, plus the chance to photograph the actual fields/places etc on my next visit as they very kindly included a map at the back!

John Henry Caton (brother to my Gt3 Grandfather William) was by all means a bit of a character in Australia. I am in touch with his descendant who lives out there. He was arrested in 1869 for fraud and seems to have had a colourful life out there buying land and generally keeping one step ahead of the law! I'm sure she will be interested in the information.


Wendy subsequently visited Blackmore and saw where her ancestors lived.

“I just wanted to let you know that without all the information you gave me about my Catons I would never have found any of the places to photograph. We had lunch at The Leather Bottle where William Caton was landlord in 1836 and I saw the history of the pub on the wall that you told me about. Had my photo taken outside Lawrences (Poplars) and took pictures of some of the fields that were mentioned in the booklet you told me about Tithe Place names of Blackmore. So thank you once again for all the information you have given me, the above photographs would never have been taken without it”.

Caton connections / links

The following sites may be of interest.
Ticonderoga Families

It seems that Ann Elizabeth (daughter of Henry & Ann) emigrated too. She arrived in Melbourne, Australia, aboard the "Gibson Craig" with her husband, Joseph Kirkham.

Saturday, 12 January 2008

Blackmore: Former School For Sale

The former School at Blackmore (Essex) - pictured on old postcard - went up for sale this week. Situated in the centre of the village in the conservation area, the School is marketed as being suitable for conversion to a house (subject to planning). The Board School was built in 1877 and closed as a school in 1970 when new facilities were opened in Nine Ashes Road. Since then it has been the Blackmore Youth Centre, closing in 2003. The modern Library building, attached to the premises, was also controversially closed in the autumn of that year. Recently the building has been used by the village's Friday Club and Parish Church Sunday School (Climbers and Explorers), but now the latter has transferred to the Village Hall. The village has plans to convert a former Squah Court at the Village Hall.
A history of the School will appear on this 'blog' in due course. Do you have any memories? Share them here.

Tuesday, 1 January 2008


A Happy New Year to all our Readers. Creating a 'blog' on the history and heritage of the Blackmore area in Essex is an interesting project and, if there are New Year Resolutions, the plan will be to provide information on a variety of local history and family history topics, as well as a list of events and other things happening around the district.

This month I have provided links to other sites, including the BBC's Peoples War project. These folks recollections are an important part of our heritage.

2008 also marks ninety years since the end of hostilities in the First World War. I include a link to the Blackmore Village Website which holds the list of those who served and fell from Blackmore.

On the subject of the First World War, I publish an account of the night of the Zeppelin raid over Blackmore. Since writing this magazine article a couple of years ago I have discovered more material. An update will follow.

Plans for 2008 also include the publication of an 'Index of Blackmore People' and a transcript of the 'Electoral Roll of 1910' on the Blackmore Village Website. Coming soon to this 'blog' will be an item on Jericho Priory.

Regarding events, don't miss 'Through Changing Scenes' at Blackmore on Saturday 23 February 2008, 7.30pm at the Priory Church of St Laurence. Tickets available from Blackmore Post Office. (see 1 December 2007 post for more information).

An outing in January? If you know Maldon then you might know of a second-hand bookshop at thebottom of high Street, top of Church Street. It's closing on 20 January andhas books on sale 20% off. Also there is a room of unsorted books so is an Aladdin's cave. I bought home a pile of books yesterday at a really modest price. Where I will find shelf-space for them is another matter! Maldon is worth an outing. Perhaps you could make this known to anyone who might be interested - the book shop closure, this is, not lack of space in my study.

Finally, your feedback is always welcome on any topics, or this new blog. It would be good to know that there is someone out there!

Essex: Book Review - Buildings of England

Those interested in local architectural history have keenly been anticipating the completely revised edition of Nikolaus Pevsner’s volume by James Bettley. Now available, at 939 pages, it is over twice the size of the previous edition despite the subsequent ‘disappearance’ of part of the county – Barking, Romford, West Ham etc – into London. It’s a colossal achievement, five years’ work, well written, and completely updated to reflect latest research, covering the New Towns and omitting the buildings that are no longer with us.

To see how accurate it is, I checked my local parish. It includes Pevsner’s famous line on the bell tower slightly amended: “Blackmore possesses one of the most impressive, if not the most impressive, of all English bell towers, built (according to tree-ring dating) in 1400” (p.141). The dedication of the church is properly stated (“St Laurence” not “St Lawrence) and Blackmore House, properly titled Jericho Priory which since 1954 “deserves detailed investigation” (p.89 previous edition) has now been accorded such an entry.

Inevitably there are some updates required to the work even on release: the Community Hospital at Brentwood (p.174) has recently been demolished; the north doorway of St Peter & St Paul, Stondon Massey (p.754) is no longer blocked but forms the entrance to a new toilet facility; the Harlow Study Centre closed a matter of just months ago at St Andrew’s Netteswellbury (p.460) with documents transferred to the town’s Museum. Such changes naturally reflect our changing use of buildings. Writing a volume such as this must be like painting the Forth Road Bridge, if you will excuse the analogy.

There are 123 lovely new colour pictures replacing the black and white ones of the 1954 edition. Unfortunately the inside of the Blackmore bell tower is omitted but locals are compensated by a drawing of the framework of Stondon’s belfry (p.26), being a representative example of the county’s craftsmanship. It’s not a cheap book (on Amazon, £23.99) but a wonderful reference and update to the original.

Andrew Smith

Great Parndon: School Life in the Nineteenth Century

Until the nineteenth century, educational standards in England were very poor. As official documents testify, many people were illiterate, signing marriage registers etc with “their mark”. This changed from 1870 when Forster’s Education Act set up School Boards. Many of our Victorian village schools date from immediately after this date and are in Essex, it has to be said, of a certain architectural style. However it was not until 1880 that attendance became compulsory. The school leaving age was 11 in 1893 and 12 in 1899. A further Education Act was passed in 1902 legislating for secondary education.

School records for the period reveal the rhythm of ordinary family life and community. Even today, the six-week summer holiday in late July and August is a throw back to a time when everyone gathered the harvest.

Robert Driver wrote that in Great Parndon (now part of Harlow New Town), older girls were kept away from school so that their mothers could go hay-making (6 June 1864) and the school that year was closed on 5 August, until 19 September, for “harvest holiday”. Elsewhere in the school log book there are records of children being absent to “pick stones” (9 February 1869); for “bird scaring” (7 July 1870), “gleaning” (5 October 1871); “gathering blackberries” (25 September 1884).

If this all sounds rather idyllic, conditions at school were poor. Heating was rudimentary and lighting by means of oil lamps. On 11 January 1865 it is recorded, “The day exceedingly foggy. The children unable to see to do their work”. Following a heavy fall of snow, many children were “laid up with chilblains” (16 January 1866).

Illness and the death of children was not uncommon. “Henry Watson dies of measles aged 3 years 6 months. Walter Meredith, one of the boys in the second class, has lost sight of both his eyes” (22 November 1864); In addition to measles, other illnesses such as scarlet fever, whooping cough, diphtheria and influenza are recorded at regular intervals. Many died of the “dreaded” scarlet fever, which caused schools to be closed: “The schoolroom has been thoroughly disinfected by the Sanitary Officer” (4 December 1899). On another occasion the school was closed for four weeks due to measles: “Seven families only have escaped. Many of the children are still far from well and look very pale and weak” (26 February 1906).

There were happier times. “Queen Victoria’s Jubilee (21 June 1887), “Parndon Fair” (8 July 1887), a gift of slippers for the children (15 October 1889) from Mrs Todhunter of Kingsmoor House, who gave “her usual treat” attended by 107 children (25 September 1890).

Robert Driver. A Green Wedge. An account of the history of the area surrounding Great Parndon Church (Robert Driver, 1998)

Andrew Smith

Blackmore: Barrett Family

Read Bruno Giordan’s item on the Blackmore Village Website about the Barrett family. It was Ashley who built the Baptist Church in 1841.

Blackmore: Second World War

Joan M Jones describes life as an A.T.S. driver, 1941 – 1945, on the BBC’s Peoples War site.

Blackmore: Post Office

In business since 1888, still going strong, and an important part of the community of Blackmore.

From the BBC’s People’s War website there is reference to a telephone exchange at Blackmore Post Office. “Albert knocked loudly on the door to the Blackmore Post office to rouse the postmistress (a well known bossy-boots who, it is alleged, listened in on telephone conversations)”.

Blackmore: Public House - The Prince Albert

One of three pubs in Blackmore. Follow the link for a list of known residents.

Blackmore: The 261 Bus Route

The 261 bus route began in the 1930s, running from Brentwood to Ongar via The Square (Horsefayre Green), Blackmore. Follow the link to an obscure site on signs.