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.

No comments: