Monday, 23 June 2008

Blackmore: Sitch Family History

16 June 2008

Julie Jennings has written to me with a query relating to the Sitch family.

“I am researching the Sitch family tree. I have attached an email from a relative who has a question for me, regarding Catherine's surname, maybe you can help. I have found out that James was married previously to Ann Harvey and on your Blackmore website it has paragraph regarding the Sitch name and burials in 1821.

“Earlier spellings of the surname have been Saitch and Setch and they appear all to originate from Blackmore.

”From the Essex Record Office I received an email with their marriage registration
D/P 112/1/8 Entry No. 38 page 13 All Saints Church, Doddinghurst

”James Sitch widower of this parish, and Catherine Elizabeth Harvey spinster of this parish, were married in this Church by Banns published on 12 December, 19 December and 26 December this 27 day of December 1830 by Bridges Harvey, Rector. This marriage was solemnised between us James Sitch (his mark) and Catherine Elizabeth Harvey (signed) in the presence of William Mead, Jane Mead. Simon Collop also signs [possibly a parish official].

"The death registrations seem to be correct with the 1851 and 1861 Censuses supporting them.

“The marriage registration was found by a cousin who lives in England and says this is the correct one. Then why is Catherine's surname Harvey and not Curtis?

”Catherine's father was James Harvey Curtis and we know that they were related to the Harveys and that Catherine was born in Romford.”

Julie adds, ”Alice Sitch born 1902 is my grandmother and married Walter Jennings b 1904. Alice's father at one time lived at Begger Hill, Ingatestone, I was spent my childhood in Ingatestone as did my mother Pamela Jennings (nee Wash). ”Do you have any further information?”

17 June 2008

Firstly, I am not able to answer your question regarding why Catherine’s former name was Harvey and not Curtis, but am able to throw some further light on the marriage register entry.

Doddinghurst is the neighbouring parish to Blackmore. In 1830, Bridges Harvey was Rector of Doddinghurst and perpetual curate at Blackmore.

Rev. J Bridges Harvey became the Perpetual Curate of Blackmore in 1808. Entries in the Registers suggest that he was frequently absent from Blackmore. In 1813, except for one baptism, on 13th January, and five between June and October, the remaining 15 were conducted by Rev John Oldham, Vicar of Stondon Massey (1791 to 1841), or his son, “also in Holy Orders, whose name occurs in 1813 and 1815 as assisting his father at Stondon” [note 1]. Likewise in 1814 and 1815 respectively Rev Oldham conducted 18 then 9 baptisms of a total 22 and 20 [note 2].

There was an ecclesiastical requirement that the incumbent should live in the parish. Exemption could be granted by the Bishop of London on receipt of a letter. Bridges Harvey wrote to the Bishop throughout the 1830s to state “that I have been resident in the Glebe House of my Rectory of Doddinghurst … during the whole of the last year … and that I deem this residence a legal Exemption from residence on my Perpetual Curacy of Blackmore, in the same County” [note 3].

Bridges Harvey died in 1849 and is buried at Doddinghurst.

I find it interesting that James Sitch and Catherine Elizabeth Harvey are described as “of this parish”. They were married at Doddinghurst yet James Sitch is thought to have come from Blackmore. Under current ecclesiastical law, a bride and groom may only get married in the Church of England if they have been resident in the parish for 15 nights or are on the Electoral Roll (i.e. are regular church attendees at that particular church). Otherwise a Bishop’s Licence is required – approval from the Bishop to marry rather than the reading of Banns on three consecutive Sundays in public worship. The reading of Banns quaintly asks the congregation if they know of any reason in law why a couple may not marry. This arrangement has been in place since 1753. It seems irregular that the couple were “of this parish” when clearly they were not. Maybe this arrangement was historically legitimate. Does any reader know? I wonder where the Banns were read. Blackmore’s Banns register is preserved at the Essex Record Office (ERO D/P 266/1/22). It could be that James Sitch lived at Wyatts Green (I don’t know) which geographically is closer to Doddinghurst though in the Blackmore parish. It could be that he attended church at Doddinghurst for the same reason (again I have no idea) so by today’s rules was on the Electoral Roll if such a thing existed in 1830. But what seems more plausible is that Bridges Harvey found this arrangement more convenient! I wonder if any more Blackmore residents were married at Doddinghurst? We know that Thomas Smith, Rector of Stondon Massey during the 1700s, married people outside the parish. Reeve (later Rector and historian) wrote, “Out of 121 marriages between 1708 and 1754 entered in the book only 17 show one of the parties to have belonged to Stondon. In every other case both bride and bridegroom belonged to outside parishes.” He adds, “One wonders whether other Rectors were as much in request for tying the nuptial knot as Mr Smith, and whether, in cases where the entries were merely records of their work done in other parishes, the parishes interested were favoured with a copy for their own books. Otherwise the work of hunting up materials for a pedigree must be felt to be a harder one than has been realized hitherto.” [note 4]

I looked at the Sitch family when writing the booklet ‘Hatched, Matched and Despatched’ because I was intrigued to learn of four deaths of children in a family in quick succession in 1821 when there were only 9 burials at Blackmore during the whole year. My theory is that poor drinking water from a well killed off these children. Any other ideas? I have tried to establish who their parents were and suspect that they were James and Ann Sitch. The baptism of Joseph to this couple is recorded in the Blackmore register on 22nd April 1821 but there are no later children of this marriage. James is recorded as being a farmer.

Later in the Blackmore register I find the baptism of “Thomas, son of James and Catherine Sitch” (15th January 1832) and “John Harvey, son of James and Catherine Sitch” (4th May 1834). In 1832 the father was a farmer but in 1834 he had become a shopkeeper.

I noted that I could not find an entry in the Blackmore Marriage Register.

I noted a Thomas Collop in 1829 whose profession was a ‘cow doctor’. He might be related to Simon Collop?

I think that all this evidence is convincing – that James was widowed and remarried Catherine Harvey at Doddinghurst.

In 1836 I find James Sitch in occupation of a house in the centre of Blackmore village (perhaps the Church Street area), where he probably was a shopkeeper. The house belonged to Thomas Page. Conversely I find James Sitch in ownership of three parcels of land at Elkins Green: a cottage and garden in the occupation of Sarah Chalk; a cottage in the occupation of William Doe; and, a cottage and garden in the occupation of Henry Horsnell. [note 5] My theory of occupation at Wyatts Green probably collapses. I later find a John Chalk (or Chaulk) as a farmer at Red Rose Farm. (Kelly's Directory 1848). Looking at the map in the publication, it could be that the Sitch family were once farmers at Elm Farm.

In addition I have noted a Harriet Sitch, baptised on 30th October 1829, whose parents were John and Mary Seach. John Seach was a labourer.

I should mention that my objective was not to study one particular family but to write a general introduction to the BMD registers for Blackmore. There may be other Sitch’s who I have not recorded. A visit to the Essex Record Office at Chelmsford is essential!!

By way of additional material. William Sitch was Churchwarden in 1778 [GLM 9583/29]. John Seach was Churchwarden in 1810 [GLM 9583/36].

The family name does not appear on the 1841 census for Blackmore. Where did they go?

21 June 2008

Karen Shirley (nee Sitch) in Canada provides some further information and poses more questions

“I was the relative that was in contact with Julie wanting to know about Catherine Sitch's maiden name....Curtis or Harvey.

“Thank you for doing all the wonderful research on Blackmore and surrounding area. I was most fascinated with your insight into James and Catherine's marriage registration.

“I would like to set one thing straight though. The parents of the children that died in 1821 were John (1775) and Mary Sitch"s (nee Shearman) married 1802 in Blackmore. John was an older brother of my gr-gr-gr grandfather James (1781) (wife Catherine). There were other children.
Mary 1805
Joseph 1809
Samuel 1811
Adam 1822
Walter 1822
Charles 1825

“If they had poor drinking water, why didn't the others die as well? I guess we'll never really know what happened.

“The births of the ones that died can be found in the IGIs with John and Mary as the parents.

“I did find James Sitch in the 1841 census.
RG number: HO107 Piece: 325 Book/Folio: 22 Page: 1
Sub District: Ingatestone
Parish: Fryerning
Address: Wool Pack, Fryerning
SITCH, James age 65 Ag Lab

There are others listed at that address also:
John Dawson age 50 Ind
Isabella dau age 35
Ann Pussons age 25 F.S.
Richard S. age16 M.S.
Sussanah Woods age 35

“What is Wool Pack? I cannot find Catherine and their older children.

“In the 1851 census Fryerning
HO 107/1775 f 222 pg43
James Sitch Head 70 House proprietor b: Blackmore
Catherine Wife 41 b: Romford
Thomas 19 Ag Lab b: Blackmore
John 17 Ag Lab b: Blackmore
George 15 Ag Lab b: Ingatestone
William 13 Ag Lab b: Ingatestone
Edward 9 b: Ingatestone
Samuel 7 b: Ingatestone
Catherine 5 b: Fryerning

“1861 census
Beggars Hill, Fryerning
Catherine Sitch Head Wid. 51 House Holder Property

“What is a House Proprietor?

“I had always been told that Beggar(s) Hill was in Ingatestone. Which is correct?

“My gr-gr grandfather Samuel (age 7 in 1851 census) lived at Rose Cottage, Beggars Hill, Ingatestone(?) with his wife Sarah Ann Roast.

“My gr-grandfather Ernest and most of his siblings (9 of 13) came to Canada in the 1890s to early 1900s just southwest of Thunder Bay, Ontario as the townships were opening up. Land was available for farming.

“Before Ernest came to Canada, he left home at age 14 and went to sea as a cabin boy sailing around the world. I believe he was around age 21 or so when he settled down here.

“Thanks again for all your research and a terrific website/blog!!”

22 June 2008

Thank you for confirming the parents of the four children who died in 1821. I will update the record. Of course, we will never know why these children died. It would appear to have been some illness unique to this family. If it were cholera then perhaps the fittest survived and the weakest members died. If anyone has any observations then please comment below.

The Woolpack is now a trendy restaurant but was, until 2002, a public house. It is near the church at the top of Fryerning Lane. In the 1970s the pub was called ‘The Huntsman’ but reverted to its original name about ten years later. A look at the 1841 census might establish the sequence of properties and confirm that James Sitch lived there.

Beggar Hill is in Fryerning, although since 1889 Ingatestone and Fryerning were merged as a single civil parish and ecclesiastically they remain separate (note 6). A look at the old parish boundaries for Essex shows that Fryerning was a wide ribbon of land running roughly north-west to south-east with Ingatestone on both sides of a (very) roughly oblong-shaped area (note 7) . Anciently both Ingatestone and Fryerning were on the eastern side of Blackmore parish. A large proportion of Ingatestone High Street was in the parish of Fryerning.

I am not sure what a ‘house proprietor’ meant. By the age of 70 James was probably retired, though of course reliant on his children’s income to support the family.

Essex suffered badly from the agricultural depression in the late 1800s. There were particularly bad harvests in the 1870s (1879 in particular) which was not helped by cheap imports of grain from America. Wheat prices by 1895 reached an all-time low. Many farms went out of business. In Ingatestone and Fryerning farmers changed to dairy farming. Fortunately there is a railway station at Ingatestone so milk could be transported to the London markets with ease.


1. Reeve. Stondon Massey (1900) p90
2. Essex Record Office. D/CR 38. Bishop’s Transcripts on Blackmore registers.
3. Guildhall Manuscripts ms19226/95.
4. Taken from ‘Stondon Massey. A Short History’ currently available.
5. The Tithe Place-Names of Blackmore. Recorder Elizabeth Lamb. ERO 2003
6. Kelly's Directory 1899
7. Cecil R Humphrey-Smith. The Phillimore Atlas and Index of Parish Registers (Phillimore, 2003)

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Ingatestone: Hall on TV again

Ingatestone Hall was on television again when the visit of Queen Elizabeth I's to Lord Petre's stately home in 1561 was recalled. The BBC has been running a series "Supersizers go ... " in which Giles Coran and Sue Perkins don the costume of an historical period for a week and eat their way through the food of the time. In truth Coran is always the wealthy merchant so does not survive of bread and gruel in every programme as my ancestors probably did. Last night it was the turn of the Elizabethans.

In the final sequence (day 7) they meet Lord Petre at Ingatestone Hall for a dinner fit for a Queen. His guests included the local Vicar and a lady from the WI. The dinner included, as a first course, goose in sorrell sauce and roast sucking pig with manchet bread and claret, followed by a second course including Battalia Pie (containing various meats including oysters and lambs' testicles) and a fine 'banquet' of sweet fruit. To entertain the ladies live frogs jumped out of pastry cases and a pie created which had a pig's bladder filled with wine which when cut bled! (I'll have a green salad please).

We know much about the Royal Visit to Ingatestone Hall because the "shopping lists" have been kept. F G Emmison in his book 'Tudor Secretary' devotes a chapter to the occasion. William Petre, one of our first civil servants, managed to survive the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary and Elizabeth I because he kept his mouth shut: a highly diplomatic and face saving (or should that be 'head saving') move.

'Supersizers Go ... Elizabethan' is repeated on Saturday 21 June and is available on I player.

Preview by national daily newspaper
See the programme on I Player

Friday, 6 June 2008

Stanford Rivers: Ongar Union Workhouse

From the time of Queen Elizabeth I to that of Queen Victoria, the established Church of England took responsibility for the affairs of the parish, including upholding the law, the maintenance of highways, and providing for the poor. The main business was carried out through the Vestry, with the Vicar and Churchwardens holding considerable power over the parishioners.

By the early 1800s the cost of providing for the poor had increased to unacceptable levels. A new approach was required. In 1834 the Government passed the ‘Poor Law Amendment Act’ which transferred responsibility away from the parish to a Board of Guardians within the Poor Law Union. For the parish of Blackmore, the poor were sent to the Ongar Union Workhouse at Stanford Rivers. The Union comprised of 26 parishes (listed below). Life in the workhouse was feared: men, women and children were segregated, and forced to work hard. To enter the workhouse was a last resort. This was the abode for the infirm and destitute – the “undeserving poor” – who were not obliged to work as hard as their counterparts. The Stanford Rivers Workhouse, extended in 1838, had capacity for 240 inhabitants [ERO T/Z 13/154].

The Workhouse System was abolished in 1931. Today a Welfare State supports those in need.

For more information on the Ongar Union Workhouse, go to the following link:
This is one page of a website dedicated to the subject.

Parishes in the Ongar Union

Abbess Roding (or Abbots Roothing)
Beauchamp Roding (or Roothing)
Berners Roding (or Roothing)
Chipping Ongar
Fyfield (or Fifehead)
Greensted (or Greenstead)
High Laver
High Ongar
Kelvedon Hatch
Little Laver
Norton Mandeville
Shellow Bowels
Stanford Rivers
Stapleford Abbots
Stapleford Tawney
Stondon Massey
Theydon Mount
Willingale Doe
Willingale Spain

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Theydon Mount: Church Records at Hertford

Bound Diocesan records for the period 1877 to 1914 are held at the ‘Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies’ at the County Council offices in Hertford. Whilst searching for information on Blackmore, I came across the following information relating to the High Country parishes.

Theydon Mount

Rural Dean. Lambourne. [1883] 8 March. The Bishop appointed Lewis Newcomes Prance Clerk MA Rector of the Rectory of Stapleford Tawney with Theydon Mount in the County of Essex and Diocese of St Albans to Rural Dean of the Rural Deanery of Lambourne in place of Cavendish Harvey Foster Baronet Clerk BA resigned [HALS DSA 1/14/1. Bishops Act Book 1877 – 1890. f182].

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Stapleford Tawney: Church Records at Hertford

Bound Diocesan records for the period 1877 to 1914 are held at the ‘Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies’ at the County Council offices in Hertford. Whilst searching for information on Blackmore, I came across the following information relating to the High Country parishes.

Stapleford Tawney

Stapleford Tawney. Co Essex. Petition for consecration of addition to churchyard. [1882] To the Right Reverend Father in God Thomas Legh by Divine Permission Lord Bishop of St Albans – The humble Petition of the Rector Churchwardens and certain Inhabitants of the Parish of Stapleford Tawney in the county of Essex and your Lordship’s Diocese – Sheweth that the Churchyard of the Parish of Stapleford Tawney aforesaid is so full of graves that it requests enlargement – That by a Deed dated the twentieth of July One thousand eight hundred and eighty two under the hand and seal of Sir William Bowyer Smyth Baronet of Hill Hall in the parish of Theydon Mount in the said County and under the authority of the “Consecration of Churchyards Act 1867” a piece of ground in the parish of Stapleford Tawney aforesaid containing one the North side or end thereof next Stapleford Tawney School House Garden sixty feet or thereabouts on the East side or end thereof next the High Road, running from Passingford Bridge to Stapleford Tawney Common one hundred feet or thereabouts on the south side or end thereof adjoining part of Stapleford Tawney Churchyard seventy five feet or thereabouts and on the west side or end thereof next to and adjoining the other part of the said Churchyard ninety five feet or thereabouts and which said piece of ground is more particularly delineated … That the said piece of ground so conveyed as aforesaid is suitably situate adjoining the said Churchyard and has been properly levelled and added to and enclosed with the said Churchyard and is now fit and proper condition for interments and may advantageously form part of the said Churchyard – Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray your Lordship will be pleased to consecrate the said piece of ground …
Lewis W Prance Rector of Stapleford Tawney and Theydon Mount. Chas Smith. A Churchwarden for the parish of Stapleford Tawney. W Sworder Churchwarden. John Lovell Fry. Cornell Fitch. Daniel Miller. Miller Bros. Jacob Miller [HALS DSA 1/15/3. Muniment Book 1882 – 1885. f71].

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Stanford Rivers: Church Records at Hertford

Bound Diocesan records for the period 1877 to 1914 are held at the ‘Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies’ at the County Council offices in Hertford. Whilst searching for information on Blackmore, I came across the following information relating to the High Country parishes.

Stanford Rivers

Ongar Union Workhouse Chaplaincy. [1894] 23 August. The Bishop signed and sealed a Licence in the following words: John Wogan by Divine permission Bishop of St Albans. To our well beloved in Christ Samuel Coode Hare, Clerk, Greetings. Whereas we have received an application to licence you to perform the Office of Chaplain to the Ongar Union Workhouse in the parish of Stanford Rivers in the County of Essex within our Diocese and Jurisdiction the same being a public Institution within the provisions of “The Parish Chapels Act 1871” to which you have been appointed now. We do by these presents give and grant to you our Licence and Authority (during our pleasure only) to perform as Chaplain to serve the Chapel belonging to the said Union Workhouse in preaching the Word of God and in reading the Common prayers and in celebrating the Holy Communion of the Lord’s Supper according to the form prescribed in the Book of Common Prayer made and published by authority of parliament and the Canons and constitutions in that behalf lawfully established and promulged [HALS DSA 1/14/2. Bishops Act Book 1890 – 1899 f165].

I note that, on 28 July 1901, the Bishop appointed John Ishmael Thomas, Clerk, BA, as Chaplain to Ongar Workhouse [HALS DSA 1/14/3. Bishops Act Book 1899 – 1909 f156].

Stanford Rivers. R Res. [1901] 3 July. The Bishop accepted the resignation made by Robert Bolleston, Clerk, BA of the Rectory of Stanford Rivers in the County of Essex and Diocese of St Albans and declared the same to be vacant [HALS DSA 1/14/3. Bishops Act Book 1899 – 1909 f59].

Stanford Rivers. [1902] 27 January: John Samuel Thomas, Clerk, BA was instituted to the Rectory of Stanford Rivers in the County of Essex and Diocese of St Albans vacant by the resignation of Robert Bollaston, Clerk, the last Incumbent there. On the presentation of His Most Gracious Majesty the King by reason of the Duchy of Lancaster in full right (as it is asserted) And Mandate was issued to the Archdeacon of Essex to induct him [HALS DSA 1/14/3. Bishops Act Book 1899 – 1909 f73]

Monday, 2 June 2008

Greensted: Church Records at Hertford

Between 1877 and 1914, Essex parishes formed part of the (then new) Diocese of St Albans. It was created in response to the great increase in population in areas adjoining London. The counties of Essex and Hertfordshire were taken from the Diocese of Rochester (to which See Essex was transferred from London in 1846). Thomas Legh Claughton, the first Bishop, transferred from being Bishop of Rochester. His place of residence was Danbury Palace, now a management training centre and public park. John Wogan Festing succeeded him in 1890, then Edgar Jacob in 1903.

Bound Diocesan records for this period are held at the ‘Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies’ at the County Council offices in Hertford. Whilst searching for information on Blackmore, I came across the following information relating to the High Country parishes.


Greensted-juxta-Ongar. Co Essex. [1880] Sequestration on death of Rector. Thomas Legh by Divine Permission Lord Bishop of St Albans. To our beloved in Christ Philip John Budworth Churchwarden of the parish of Greensted-juxta-Ongar in the County of Essex and within the Diocese and jurisdiction Greeting. Whereas the Parish Church of Greensted-juxta-Ongar aforesaid is become vacant by the Death of the Reverend Philip William Ray the late Incumbent thereof and at present is destitute of an Incumbent. We therefore lest the fruits tithes rents profits and other rights and emoluments ecclesiastical now due to the said Church or arising or becoming due during the vacancy thereof should be embezzled wasted or applied to improper uses have devised the same to be sequestered and Do sequester the same according and we do by these presents ordain and appoint you Sequestrator and Special Collector of the said Church during the vacancy thereof as aforesaid and do enjoin you forthwith to publish or cause to be published this our Sequestration at the Church – aforesaid and such there public and proper places as you shall most expedient and also during the said vacancy to demand recover and receive into your hands and keep under safe sequestration All and singular the fruits tithes rents profits and other rights and emoluments ecclesiastical belonging to the said church in whose hands soever being or remaining or which hereafter be or remain. And with the same collected received or sequestered to cause the cure of souls in the said Parish to be served and all other charges belonging to the said church to be sustained and discharged. And to render unto us our Vicar General and Official Principal or other competent Judge in this behalf when you shall be – thereunto lawfully required a true and faithful account of the residue for the use of the next Incumbent or such other person or persons as shall do or cause to be done in the premises you shall duly certify to us our Vicar General and Official Principal aforesaid or other competent Judge in this behalf the seventh day of February in the year of our Lord One thousand eight hundred and eighty. Geo H Knight. Registrar [HALS DSA 1/15/2 Muniment Book f73].

Greenstead by Ongar. [1902] Faculty to reserve part of the churchyard and erect a Mural Tablet. John Wogan by Divine permission Lord Bishop of St Albans. To all whom it may concern and more especially Howel John James Price of Greenstead Hall Greenstead by Ongar in the County of Essex Esquire Greetings. Whereas it hath been represented unto the Worshipful Alfred Bray Kempe Master of Arts Vicar General and Official Principal of our Consistorial and Episcopal Court of St Albans … a petition under the name of the said Howel John James Prince … is the Widower of Mary Catherine Prince late of Greenstead Hall aforesaid … resided in and owned the above property for upwards of 50 years past … is desirous of reserving to himself and his family an additional space next to the above grave and of enclosing the whole of the said space with a marble or stone kerb … 10 feet in length and 10 feet in breadth … is also desirous of placing on the East Wall of the Nave … a plain copper and iron mural Tablet … with the following inscription namely “In memory of Mary Catherine Price died March 20th 1902 aged 43. This Tablet is erected in memory of one who lived a happy life in this parish beloved by all who knew her and died trusting in Christ her Saviour”. That a meeting of the Vestry of the said parish was duly summoned on the 27th day of June 1902 … the Rector alone was present no parishioners being present … That the Reverend Arthur George Breeks Atkinson the present Rector ... consents to such application. [Granted. 31 August 1902] [HALS DSA 1/15/9. Muniment Book 1899 – 1904. f448].

Sunday, 1 June 2008


Welcome. Summer’s here and the time is right for dancing in the street!!

William Kemp

He danced through Brentwood and Chelmsford in 1601 on his way to Norwich, so Will Kemp deserves a mention. Go to:

Blackmore Morris Dancers

A friend of mine suggested that I should publicise the Blackmore Morris Men Dance Programme for 2008. On Wednesday evenings until 3 September, when they return to the Leather Bottle at Blackmore, the group can be seen performing at various country pubs in our area. Follow the link to:
For more about the side, see

Number One on Google search engine

I typed in the words ‘blackmore history’ into Google only to find that ‘Blackmore Area Local History’ is number one!

Copped Hall

Recommended this summer is a visit to Copped Hall near Epping. The Hall was destroyed by fire in 1917 but is now under repair, thanks to the Copped Hall Trust. But one has to marvel at the garden which is in the course of restoration, rescued from a mass of overgrown trees and brambles. The transformation over the past ten years has been amazing. It is a labour of love for Trust members who tend their own patch. In the large walled garden you can see the newly planted orchard and restored glasshouses. However, the house and, separately, the grounds are open to the public only on rare occasions. Follow these links for more information.

Barleylands Agricultural Museum: farm machinery for sale

Seems like this is possibly the end of a second era. A collection of bygone farming machinery goes under the hammer at Billericay. The auction is on 7 June 2008. Lots will include “around 500 artefacts from its museum, including bygone farm machinery and tractors”.

Byrd Books fly off the shelves!

‘William Byrd: Some Notes’, released to coincide with the BBC TV Series ‘Sacred Music’ and ‘Through Changing Scenes’ at Stondon Massey Church, is selling surprisingly well at £1.50 a time. It is available from Blackmore and Stondon Massey churches. An order has also been placed by Ingatestone Hall Gift Shop. Byrd lived in Stondon Massey between 1593 and 1623 and was composer to the Petre family of Ingatestone.

Libraries: Where Have All The Books Gone?

Libraries have changed. More space is given to surfing the net with a consequence that less space is being given over to books on shelves, either for loan or reference. One of the more alarming changes in the past two years is a contraction of the areas devoted to Local Studies. I am told at Colchester the Local Studies Section is a shadow of its former self, and know that at Brentwood ad Chelmsford, for example, precious books are now locked away in a store-room. The problem with this is that the casual browser does not know of the existence of complete runs of Essex Review (1892 – 1957), the Transactions of the now Essex Society for Archaeology and History (1852 to date), Essex Recusant, Essex Life which was formerly the Essex Countryside (1952 to date) etc. The thing about these books is that often the writers have first hand accounts of events: Zeppelins over Essex during the First World War; the hailstorm over Essex in 1897, memories of Victorian life etc. In the tidy world of the Essex Libraries Service, these are hidden gems to the local historian. You need to ask for them – and be determined. Once the staff member knows of their existence they are only too happy to help. At Brentwood, Essex Review etc are in the store-room in the corner of the Library. Whilst researching William Byrd in February I was allowed into this secret room of antiquarian pearls. You can, of course, photocopy the pages you want. At Chelmsford, they are stored on locked but moveable shelves. My concern is that someone in a few months’ or years’ time comes along, taking the view that because no one looks at them and decides to flog them off alongside the trashy fiction. I am concerned that this might become a race against time.

Ninety Years On

I will be commemorating the First World War (the ‘Great War’ as it was then known) on this site beginning on 4 August – the date when war was declared in 1914 – and ending on 11 November – the date of the Armistice in 1918. The end of this great struggle was 90 years ago this year.