Monday, 31 August 2009

Railways (4)

Inside Class 306 No 017 on 28th August 1989. This fleet – of which this is the last of them – was designed and commissioned by LNER in 1938 and began service in 1949 with the electrification of the line from London Liverpool Street to Shenfield. They were withdrawn from service in 1980, with the last public working thought to have been in May 2002.

A history of Class 306:
Electrification poster of 1949 showing the new trains, which later became Class 306:
The preserved train at Upminster (taken 1991):
Wikipedia entry:

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Railways (3)

I remember these Class 306 three-car electric trains well because these were in service during my early childhood on the route from Shenfield via Ingatestone to Chelmsford. Until the mid 1970s a sporadic service stopped at Ingatestone. The service was replaced about 1976 with hourly off-peak stopping trains through to Colchester. On 28th August 1989, upon my arrival at Shenfield Station, 306 017 was standing at Platform 5 about to depart for Southminster. With a Rover ticket I took the full journey. This photograph was taken at Southminster station.

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Railways (2)

This Steam Locomotive was built in 1924, and when pictured here in 1989 was on its first outing under its own steam from the East Anglian Railway Museum. Although still owned by the Museum, it is on long term loan to the North Norfolk Railway in Sheringham. For more information go to

Friday, 28 August 2009

Railways (1)

Twenty years ago today (on 28th August 1989) saw the official centenary celebrations of the ‘New Essex Lines’, the railway from Shenfield to Southend Victoria and branch from Wickford to Southminster. Bank Holiday Monday crowds could buy a ‘Rover’ ticket and have freedom to travel the branches as well as view trains and rolling stock at Southend Victoria station. I was there.

Kelly’s Directory of 1890 refers to Shenfield having “a station on the main line of the Great Eastern railway, which is also the junction for the branch of that company to Southend, Southminster and Maldon completed in 1889. The road to Billericay, Rochford and Southend branches off here”.

Shenfield Station opened on 1st January 1887 marking the beginning of the project. A goods service began to Wickford initially in November 1888 followed by the first passenger service on 1st January 1889. The single line from Wickford to Southminster was opened to passenger traffic on 1st July 1889, then to Southend Victoria on 1st October that same year. Originally the line from Wickford to Southend was single track. The line was equipped with public sidings which survived until the Dr Beeching’s axe in the 1960s. Railway stations en route were as they are now: Billericay, Wickford, Rayleigh, Hockley, Rochford, Prittlewell and Southend.

After nationalisation British Rail was keen to withdraw steam in the whole of the Eastern Region in favour of diesel or electric power. The four track line between London Liverpool Street and Shenfield was electrified in the late 1940s – a scheme already planned before the outbreak of the Second World War - with the first of the new electric trains running in September 1949. In 1953 it was announced that the line from Shenfield via Ingatestone to Chelmsford and from Shenfield to Southend would be electrified. The new service to Southend began on 31st December 1956. Diesel multiple units took over the conveyance of the Wickford to Southminster branch. The arrival of new electric trains and an improved service heralded a boom in housing building along the route.


Kelly’s Directory 1890
Phillips, Charles. The Shenfield to Southend Line (Oakwood Press, 1984)

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Great Burstead: Revd. A. Suckling. Memorials (1845)

The following is taken from Revd. Alfred Suckling’s book, ‘Memorials of the antiquities and architecture, family history and heraldry of the County of Essex’ (John Weale, London, 1845).

The etymology of this name plainly refers to works of Roman construction, though it is now impossible to determine their precise appellation. Camden, however, has not scrupled to fix the Caesaromagus at this place, though in this opinion he is unfollowed by a single antiquary, and totally unsupported by the discovery of ancient remains.

It is most probable that the Romans had merely a fortilage here to protect their military way, which proceeding from Tilbury to Ongar, passed through this village. But of this inconsiderable fortification, if such did actually once exist, no traces are now perceptible. About a mile, however, westward of Billericay, and crowning the summit of a gentle swell, stands a modern farm-house, retaining the name of a more ancient structure, called Blunt’s Wall, and which, a few years since, is said to have shown some faint traces of a vallurn and ditch, enclosing about four acres. This would therefore seem to be the most probable site of the long sought Roman operation in this village - a supposition much strengthened by the peculiar name which the spot still bears.

The word wall is evidently a Saxon corruption of the Roman vallum, and was unspecifically applied by the former people to any military work of their predecessors in this island.

Upon the partition of the kingdom by the followers of William the First, the village of Burstead was appropriated by a Norman family of the name of Le Blond, who, in all likelihood, finding the Roman fortilage in a condition still capable of defence, adopted as a residence a position so well adapted to protect them from the violence of a people who were as yet but partially subdued.

Hence, without any violent contortion of language, may be obtained a name, at once indicative of Roman occupation, and of subsequent Norman possession.

THE CHURCH at Great Burstead is a plain and unpretending structure of Norman origin, thou much altered, and probably nearly rebuilt at subsequent periods. It now comprises a nave and chancel of the same width, with a south aisle running the entire length of the edifice, and divided from the former portions by a series of pointed arches, resting on octangular shafts, which have plain capitals. The tower, which contains five bells, is square, and crowned with a spire. Windows of various eras occur in the walls of this building, though undistinguished by peculiarity of tracery or design. A general gloom pervades the whole interior, the result of tastelessness and sordid parsimony, which, pocketing the impropriated revenues of this benefice, have grudged the small sums requisite to keep in repair the chancel window, and have, in accordance with this narrow feeling, closed it with brick and mortar. It may be fairly inquired in this place, how far those, to whom the care of our sacred structures is committed, conscientiously discharge their public duty, by permitting such innovations in the first instance, or by allowing their continuance. These observations on Great Burstead church may be closed by noticing an octagonal but plain font, a curious old chest of oak, well banded with iron, and a few fragments of stained gIass, amidst which appears the central coat of arms, as represented.


In the church are the following, amongst many others:-

1. Near this place lye all that could die of Joseph Fishpoole, who departed this life the 23 June, 1703, aged 56 years.
Also, of Rebecca, his wife, who died 9th Decr. 1741, aged 87 years.
Likewise of J. Fishpoole, their son, who departed this life 19th March, 1755, aged 73.
And lastly, of Ann Abbutt, widow, their daughter, who died 3 December, 1759, aged 75 years. She bequeathed by her will £100 to be laid out in the purchase of land, or invested in one of the public funds, and the interest of it to be equally distributed between five poor widows of this parish, who are members of the Church of England, annually for ever, and directed the same to be called Fishpoole’s gift.

2. Felton Nevill, Esqre, late of this parish, departed this life September the 28th, 1780, aged 59 years.

3. In memory of Mrs. Eleanora Sterry, relict of the Revd. Wasev Sterry, formerly Vicar of Henham, in this county, who died the 24th of January, 1829, aged 80 years

4. M. S.
Georgii Porter’, M.A.
Aliquandiu Capellae apud Billericurn Ministri,
Pii, comis, humani,
Conjugis fidi,
Benigni Parentis
Inopino morbo afflictus obdormivit
Vij Kalend. Decembrium,
Anno Satultis, MDCCCXIX
Aetatis LVI.

Friday, 21 August 2009

Writtle: Revd. A. Suckling. Memorials (1845)

The following is taken from Revd. Alfred Suckling’s book, ‘Memorials of the antiquities and architecture, family history and heraldry of the County of Essex’ (John Weale, London, 1845).

The extent of Writtle, which is the largest parish in Essex, is its only present distinction, though, in former days, it appears to have been one of the most important. By Horsley it is considered as the Caesaromagus mentioned in the fifth Iter of Antoninus, and the distance of that station, twenty-eight miles from London, agrees well with the position of modern Writtle. But, “notwithstanding the pompous name of this station,” says Dr. Henry, (Caesar’s seat,) “its very ruins are now so entirely ruined, that its exact situation cannot be discovered; but by the distance from London, and the direction of the road on which this rout (Iter v.) proceeds, it must have been at or near Chelmsford.”

No indications, I believe, of Roman Castrametation are visible here at the present day to determine this point. At a period far remote from that in which some Roman commander made choice of Writtle for a military station, the inglorious John, from causes not now remembered, erected in the same village a royal palace, a few inconsiderable ruins of which are said to be remaining on the village green, about a quarter of a mile to the left of the public road leading towards Chelmsford.

The disappearance of all these vestiges of ancient importance shew in a very striking light the instability of human grandeur, where neither the stupendous labours of Roman ambition, nor the luxuries of royalty, have left a wreck behind.

The ecclesiastical history of this place is well determined, but remarkable for the frequent changes it has experienced. From the shape of the font, carved in very hard stone, a church must have existed here from a very ancient period; certain however it is, that in 1143 King Stephen granted it to the priory of Berrnondesev, in Surrey; eighty years subsequent to this donation, King John obtained possession of it, whether by the right of purchase or exchange, or by an arbitrary stretch of violence, so common in the annals of his reign, I know not; but by him it was bestowed on the hospital of the Holy Ghost, at Rome, belonging to the English resident there, and its funds destined to the maintenance of the poor and infirm. In the second year of Edward the Third’s reign, this appropriation was confirmed. Being afterwards seized as belonging to an alien hospital, it was obtained by William of Wickham, who augmented the revenues of his new college at Oxford with its impropriation, and presented to the warden and fellows the patronage of the vicarage. With this body both still remain, being exempt from all episcopal jurisdiction, and subject in spiritual matters to the commissary of that college alone.

The church consists of a lofty nave and chancel with two aisles, north and south porches, and two small transepts or chapels; that on the south side being of red brick, and about Henry the Eighth’s era. The tower is square, and being built of red brick in 1802, is consequently tasteless and inelegant. Over the west door of this tower is inserted a curious piece of sculpture, preserved probably from the ruin of the older structure.

The interior of the edifice is remarkably light and pleasing, and had not an oaken roof been laid over it of too flattened an arch, the tout ensemble would he exceedingly fine. This roof is sustained in the nave by an arcade of five pointed arches resting on cylindrical pillars, finished with round and plainly moulded capitals; while the columns of the chancel, though of like form, have octangular capitals. The first arch eastward of the nave is much wider than any other in the church; and that at the west end is as remarkably contracted. It would be difficult to account for these incongruities, which, besides detracting from the beauty of the structure, must have added materially to the expense of its erection.


“A.D. 1506. Thos. Hawkins gave about sixty acres of land to endow Alms Houses in the churchyard.
“1591. William Horne gave for bread, £2 13s. 4d.
“1605. Edward Hunt gave two tenements, and yearly to two poor persons inhabiting the same, £1.
“1634. Dorothy Davis gave for bread, £2 13s. 4d.
“1737. Eleanor Jones gave for bread, £1.
“1774. John Blencowe gave for the education of poor children of Writtle and Roxwell, £1200.
“1776. Sarah, Viscountess Falkland, annually for bread to the poor who attend the church, the interest of £121 0s. 8d., vested in the 2 per cents.
“1811. William Francis Henry, Baron Petre, gave the timber for the frame work of the bells.
“1811. Mr. Henry Lambrith gave one hundred pounds towards the expense of recasting the bells, Bumstead’s Farm, Parken’s tenements in Greenbury, East Hays, in Church Haw Street, one tenement, two shillings yearly from a piece of ground near the leet.
“The organ was the gift of Thomas Penrose, D.C.L., Vicar; and P. C. Labouchere, Esqre, of Hylands, 1821, and an addition was given to the organ by Henry Lambrith, Esqre.”


Writtle church must at one period have possessed a fine collection of sepulchral brasses, as the numerous matrices robbed of these ornaments evidently prove. Of those which remain, four lie on the floor near the chancel door, two warriors and their wives; the inscription is reaved, but by their costume we may infer that they flourished during the reign of Henry the Seventh. The position of the whole group, which exposes it to the constant tread of the congregation, is highly injurious to its preservation.

On a fantastic mural monument against the north wall of the chancel is this inscription

M. S.
Edward Pinchon et Dorothea Weston una olim caro unum nunc cadaver hoc in tumulo
Christum expectat,
Vixére singulari erga Deum fide
Pan inter se concordia,
Nec aliâ erga homines charitate,
Hoc si fib maestisso dicenti non credis
Interroga viciniam,
Interim cave mali quicquam de illis dicas
Nam etiam mortui bone audiunt.

On the top of this monument, in allusion to ears of wheat carved there, are these lines:-

Petra erat X. R. S.
Si non moriatur, non reviviscit,
Vos estis die agricultura,
Messores nos savit, fovet, lavit, coget, renovabit,

Arms: Pinchon quarters Weston; Gules, 3 pears or; and a chev. reversed of the second. In the third quarter; Argent, two bendlets engrailed sab. 4 qr. as the first.

2. Near this place lies interred the body of that truly great and good man, the Rt. Hoñble Sir John Comyns, Knt., late Lord Chief Baron of his Majesty’s Court of Exchequer, universally esteemed one of the brightest ornaments of the Bench, and ablest lawyers of his time, who departed this life on the 13th day of November, 1740, aged 73. That a character of so much piety, learninge, and merit should not be buried in oblivion, but remain as a shining example to others, this monument (out of duty and gratitude) was humbly erected to his memory by his Nephew and Heir, John Comyns, of Hylands, Esq 1759.

Cui pudor et justitiae soror
Incorrupta fides, nudaq: veritas
Quando ullam invenient parem.

This monument bears the arms of Comyns, and a marble bust of the Chief Baron.

3. An altar tomb of Purbeck marble, of the style of the fifteenth century, projects from the north wall of the chancel; it bears no inscription, but has the following armorial ensigns attached to its side, engraved on brass plates:-

1st. A martlet, charged with a mullet for difference, on a chief, five balls.
2. The same shield impales quarterly, - 1st, two lioncels pass. guard. crowned. 2nd, three bendlets int. a bordure. 3rd, two bars, and a bend, surtout. 4th, a fret, and a chief.
3. The first shield also impales quarterly 1 and 4, barry of four, on a chief, a lion pass, guard. 2nd and 3rd, ermine, on a chief, two mullets.

4. Over the vestry door is a mural monument in the taste of the sixteenth century, on which are rudely carved the kneeling effigies of a man with four sons before a faldstool, on the other side of which are similarly placed those of a female and her daughters. The inscription is as follows:-

Nere unto this place resteth in peace the bodie of Edw. Elliott, late of Newland, in the countye of Essex, Esqre, Soñe of John Eliot, of Stortford, in the countye of Hartford. He tooke to wife Jane, one of the daughters of James Gedge, sone and heire of Margaret Gedge, one of the daughters and heires of Thomas Bardfield, of Shenfields, in the countye aforesayd, by whom he had issue iiij sonnes, and vj daughters, whereof he left living iij sones and five daughters. The lived together in married estate xxxviij yeres, and he deceased the xxij day of Decemb. in the year of our Lord, 159e; aetatis 60.

Above this inscription are some verses too high to be read from the ground, but this circumstance is probably little to be regretted.

5. To the memory of Frances, late wife of Richard Comyns, Esq Serjeant-at-Law, who dved ye 30 of Sepr, Auno Dni. 1773.

6. On the floor of the nave lie the effigies. The inscription is lost; but at their feet stand two groupes of children, consisting of six sons and two daughters. The arms attached are, a chev. int. 3 mullets.

7. Here Iyeth interred the body of Catharin Petre, wife of Joseph Petre, of Fittelers, in the county of Essex, Esqre, daughter of Sir William Andrews, Baronet, who dyed ye 3 of December, 1700, in the 32 year of her age.
Arms: Petre impales Andrews,

8. Within the altar rails lies a floor stone, with an inscription to the memory of the Rev. John Birch, LL.B.

9. Here lyeth the body of John Pynchon, of Writtle, Esqre, son of Sir Edward Pynchon, of Writtle, Knt., who departed this life ye 30 day of July, 1654. And also ye body of Edward Pynchon, Gent., son of ye said John Pynchon, Esqre, who departed this life ye 12 day of Febry, 1672. And also ye body of Ann Pynchon, wife of ye said John Pynchon, Esq who departed this life ye 10 day of May, 1675.

10. Hic jacet
Quod mortale fuit
Godfridi Thacker,
Nup Hospitij Grayensis, Ar:
Qui obiit undecimo die Aprilis,
Anno Salutis humanae
AEtatis suae,
Hic etiam jacet
Bridgetta Thacker,
Soror Godfridi,
Quae obiit, 24° die Maij,
Anno Domini 1732,
AEtatis suae 81.

11. Agatha,
Conjux Johis Rogers
Civis Londini, Soror Thomae Houghton hujus ecclesiae
Vicar - quae
Raris casibus puerperij
Mature gavida invito obstetricantis ingenio
Partum non enixa difficulter obdormuit.
H.SS. xvi die Augusti, 1684.

12. H.S.S
Elizabetha, uxor Thomae Swallow, LL.B, hujus ecclesiae Vicar; Filia Artheri Hyde de Hinton Daubney, in Agro Southton, Armig. quae ob. 2 die Julij, Anno Dom. 1728, aetatis suae 29.
H. S. S.
Thomas Swallow, LL.B., hujus parochiae cum capella Roxwell annexa Vicarius. Ob. xxij Aug. MDCCLV, aetatis suae LXVIIJ.

13. Randall Adams, Esqre, eldest son of John Adams, Esqre, late of Writtle, departed this life 9 day of April, A.D. 1725, aged 55 years. He married Elizabeth, daughter of John Weever, of South Luffenham, in the county of Rutland, Esqre, and had issue by her two Sons and two daughters, who all survived him.

14. George Emport, of Calveley, in Cheshire, Esqre, and Elizabeth, his wife, one of the daughters of Will. Comvns, of this parish, Esqre. She departed this life, 14 day of Nov. 1731 aged 56 ; he upon the 7 November, 1735, aged 84.

15. Bene nata - bene erudita,
Forum ingenio et virtutibus insignis,
Christ cultrix frequens et sincera,
Annos 27 vixit
Bella Comyns,
Morbo lento et incurabili
Fortitudine plusquam femineâ diu luctata,
Graviora passa dum filiolas
Praematura morte extinctos
Quietam solamen et immortalitatem
Quam meruit felicem,
Adsecuta est,
Prid Iduum, Oct. 1738.
Amoris et pietatis ergo, hoc marmor posuit
Johannis Comyns de interiori Templo Armig.
Fidelissimam lugens quam comitari maluit uxorem.

16. Here lyeth buryed the body of Edward Bowland, Gentleman, who departed this life, with blessed memorye, the 14 of September, 1609.
Here lyeth Jone, the wife of Edward Bowland, Gent., who dyed the 18 of Aug. Ano Dni. 1616.

17. On a brass plate affixed to the wall are two figures kneeling before a faldstool.
Obiit xiiij die Augusti, 1606.
Vivit post funera virtus.
Neere to this place resteth the bodie of Edwarde Hunt, late of Wrytle, Gent., who lyvinge was muche beloved, releeved the poore, and by his laste will gave in perpetuytie two almshouses in Churche Lane, wth an yerely allowance of twentye shillinges for their better maintenance, and also hath willed for ever to ye poore of this prishe, to be yerely distributed on Good Fryday, x shillinges, wch somes are lymytted to be paid out of a parcel of lande called Appesfield, in Chelmsforde parishe, as by his saide wille at large appeareth.

Friday, 14 August 2009

Widford: Revd. A. Suckling. Memorials (1845)

The following is taken from Revd. Alfred Suckling’s book, ‘Memorials of the antiquities and architecture, family history and heraldry of the County of Essex’ (John Weale, London, 1845).

Widford, a small parish in the hundred of Chelmsford, derives its name from the width of the ford, which the river here presented - a circumstance sufficiently important to procure it that appellation, in times when travelling was rendered difficult and often dangerous by the necessity of fording the numerous rivers which everywhere intersected the country. The modern traveller, whirling in his easy conveyance over the smooth roads of the present day, may be inclined to smile at the apparent simplicity of such a derivation, but let him for a moment picture to himself the state of the kingdom during the Saxon era. Let him imagine himself journeying (even towards London if he will) without a hedge-row to direct him in his course; the face of the country obscured by thick woods; the half-tracked way interrupted by watercourses, which undrained bogs and morasses swelled to thrice their present importance, without any bridge to facilitate his progress or relieve him from the uncomfortable and probably dangerous expedient of wading through the stream, and he will, I think, readily acknowledge that a name implying the little opposition here offered to his progress, is not derived from a circumstance trifling or unimportant*.

The manor of Widford has passed in succession from Edward of Woodstock, who held it in the year 1329, to Roger de Mortimer, and to the families of Cloville, Altham, and Judge.

The church [since entirely rebuilt] comprises a nave and chancel, a north transept of red brick, and a small loft at the western end containing two bells. The whole is neatly and reputably fitted up, but not distinguished by any peculiar architectural feature. The transept appears of the age of Henry the Eighth, though its foundation has been ascribed to a period as late as the year 1604, probably on the authority of a piece of broken glass in the window. The remaining words of this legend are as follows:

Jacobus Altham Serviens ad legem
Dus Maner de Widford ac patronus
Istius ecciesiae, hanc capellam restituit
Ano Nmi 1604 cuius aia ppiciet Deus.

Now, a piscina finished with tabernacle work, certainly a century earlier than this period, together with the style of the architecture, justify the conclusion that Altham was not the founder of this chapel. I therefore supply the word restituit, in preference to fundavit.

The concluding part of the inscription, so much at variance with the religious ideas entertained in 1604, I cannot pretend to account for. The difficulty would be removed if we could possibly read 1504, instead of 1604.

In the interior of the nave is a board enumerating the benefactions to the parishioners.


Sarah, Viscountess Falkland, in the year 1776, bequeathed two hundred pounds. And the Revd John Saunders, A.M., late Rector, in 1811, one hundred pounds; the interest of which two sums is to be distributed in bread to the poor of this parish who attend divine service, by the minister and churchwardens.

Benjamin Serjeant, formerly of Writtle, Gent., in the year 1787, bequeathed one hundred pounds stock, the interest of which is to be annually laid out at Christmas in the purchase of two coats and waistcoats, and two gowns and petticoats, to he given to two poor widowers, and two poor widows, parishioners of, and residing in the parish of Widford.


On a heavy pyramid tomb, on the outside of the church, and at the north-east angle, is this inscription:-

Sarah, Viscountess Falkland,
wife of
Lucius Charles Viscount Falkland,
Relict of
Henry Howard, late Earl of Suffolk,
and daughter and only child of
Thomas Inwen, Esqr., deceased,
died the 27th May, 1776,
aged 62.


In a vault by the side of his relation and benefactress, Sarah, Viscountess Falkland, are deposited the remains of

William Hucks, Esqr., of Dulwich, in the county of Surrey, who died the 26th of October, 1804, aetat 72. To his domestic virtues, deeply engraven on her heart, his afflicted but resigned widow erects this last sad tribute of affection, in the pleasing hope of again meeting in a blessed Eternity.
In the same vault are deposited the remains of Sarah Hucks, relict of the above William Hucks, Esqr., who died the 13th of August, 1810, aetat. 77.
In memory of Eliz. the wife of Richard Judge, of Widford Hall, who died 25th Novr, 1780, aged 39 years.
Also, of the said Richard Judge, who died 9 Novr, 1787 aged 48 years.
Here Iyeth the body of Elizabeth, the wife of William Judge, of Widford Hall, who died Aug. 23rd, 1764, aged 62 years.
Also, William Judge, who died Jany, 14th, 1778, aged 80 years.

In a south window of the nave are these arms: Cloville [illustrated].

* The number of towns and villages in every part of the kingdom, whose names may be derived from this adjunct in union with some adjective, is at once an unanswerable argument in favour of the position that our forefathers knew of few local circumstances more fitting to distinguish the different villages than the one now referred to for instance, Widford (wide-ford), Deptford (deep-ford), Stratford, of frequent occurrence, (street-ford), Mutford (muddy-ford), Holford (hole—ford), Shalford (shallow-ford), Stamford and Stanford (stony-ford), Rochford (rocky-ford), Rushford, Sedgford, Woodford, Oldford, Brockford, Horseford, &c., &c., whose derivation is sufficiently obvious. Sometimes towns obtain their distinguishing appellative from the rivers themselves: as Chelmsford, from the river Chelmer, Orford, from the Ore, and many others.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Blackmore: Parish Profile

The Parish Church at Blackmore is looking for a new Vicar. The post is shared with Rector of Stondon Massey and Rural Dean for the Ongar area. Its Parochial Church Council has produced a job description in the form of a 'Parish Profile'. Not only is this of interest to potential applicants but to parishioners and historians alike. For more follow the link to the church website:

Friday, 7 August 2009

Chelmsford: Revd. A. Suckling. Memorials (1845)

The following is taken from Revd. Alfred Suckling’s book, ‘Memorials of the antiquities and architecture, family history and heraldry of the County of Essex’ (John Weale, London, 1845).

A church existed from very early times in this town, though neither the date of its foundation nor the name of its founder has survived. This building, falling into decay, was re-edified soon after the year 1400, as an inscription, formerly to be seen on the south side of tile battlements, informed us. And indeed the western tower and other portions of architecture which remain of that second erection confirm such a relation.

With regard to the existing structure, it is a compound of modern restorations, grafted upon the fragments of a better taste. On the evening of the 12th of January, 1800, the greater part of the walls, with the entire roof, having suddenly given way, fell to the ground with a tremendous crash. The inhabitants, with a zeal truly laudable, immediately determined upon the restoration of their ‘‘fallen pile;“ and it is to be lamented that their desires met not with an architect competent to restore its original features. But the genius of Gothic architecture was at that period but just emerging from the ignorance and neglect which had so long enveloped her; and it is perhaps well that these restorations are no worse. The record of this event is preserved by a Latin inscription over the chancel door, which may be thus translated:- “A part of this edifice, dedicated to the blessed Virgin Mary, which, after having been decayed through age, was rebuilt in the year of our Lord, 1424, by certain pious subscriptions, having, on the evening of the 12th of January, 1800, suddenly fallen; the inhabitants of Chelmsford, determined to re-edify and decorate with new ornaments this portion, at their own expense, employed Johnson, the architect, for that purpose. This very sacred work, for which an act of parliament was granted, having been commenced on the 21st of June 1800, and after three years and as many months, having been completed, John Morgan, S.T.B., the reverend rector of Chelmsford, performed divine service in it again, on the Sunday of September the 18th, 1803.”

The entire tower, with the beautiful south porch and the shafts of the nave and chancel, appear to have escaped destruction, and are incorporated into the modern work. The arches of the nave are pointed, and sustained on shafts whose horizontal section represents a truncated lozenge; the mouldings of the arches being continued throughout their entire length without the intervention of a capital. On the north side of the chancel is a rather flattened Norman arch, supported in the centre by mouldings which rest on the capitals of a clustered column. This is probably coeval with the first structure raised here.

The interior length of this church is one hundred and twenty feet; the nave aisles measuring one hundred and two feet, and their breadth being fifty-four. Amidst a vast many mural monuments and floor-stones may be particularized the vault of the ancient family of Mildmay, in which repose the ashes of Benjamin, Earl Fitzwalter, and Frederica, his countess, daughter of the gallant Duke of Schomberg. It is recorded, that fanatical fury destroyed a very beautiful east window stained glass, representing the crucifixion of our Saviour, and other passages in his sacred history. Its situation is occupied in the new chancel by a window of modern colouring, - like all other modern painted glass, garish and inharmonious.

Saturday, 1 August 2009


Welcome to this month’s round-up of local history and heritage in and around Blackmore, Essex.

Cuckoo to Reopen

The Cuckoo, Radley Green, is to reopen at the end of August as a new gastro pub. The local newspaper (Brentwood Gazette) carried job advertisements in July for prospective staff. Blackmore Area Local History reported that the former Greene King (ex Ridleys) pub closed at the beginning of January for what was thought to be the final time. It seems that the cuckoo has become the phoenix!

New Essex Lines

It is 120 years since the opening of the railway line from Shenfield to Southend Victoria and Southminster. To mark 20 years since the centenary celebrations on 28th August I am publishing the photographs I took then. Blackmore Area Local History will then be devoting a month to our railway heritage past and present.

Revd. Alfred Suckling

The series of transcripts from Alfred Suckling’s Memorials (1845) ends this month. The book covers the whole of Essex so I have not included those villages outside the Blackmore Area Local History region, namely: Hatfield Peverel, Bradfield, Danbury, Dedham, Langham, Great Horkesley, Little Horkesley, Wrabness, Dovercourt, Wix, Lawford, Colchester, Stanway, Inworth, Little Braxted, Great Braxted, Messing and Layer Marney. The clergyman’s research during the mid nineteenth century, before the arrival of the railway, was a considerable labour of love. Suckling writes at Layer Marney: “As the writer had already walked nearly twenty miles that day, and seven more lay between him and Colchester, the ultimate and most important object of the tour, the shades of an October evening warned him that any attempt to draw these effigies with accuracy and care would be fruitless; with regret, therefore he left these monuments of ancient sculpture unsketched. Lest, however, he be charged with apathy on this score, let the reader understand, that having breakfasted at six that morning, he had subsequently already visited the churches of Great and Little Braxted, Inworth and Messing, had made sketches of those portions to be found in this volume, with the brasses, arms, and inscriptions connected with them; had also drawn a view of Layer Marney Tower, the exterior of the church, and the arms and font, and copied all the monuments, without any assistance”.

Entries on this blog with reference to John Weale can be found under He was Suckling’s publisher.

Lord Petre of Ingatestone Hall

‘SEO Elite Reviews’ has produced a summary of the Petre family of Ingatestone Hall (see photograph) from ancient times to date. For information follow this link:

Stondon Massey: AA Battery

A sequence of correspondence has appeared in relation to gun First and Second World war gun emplacements at Stondon Massey. To follow the story, go to

Around British Churches

‘David J’ has an interesting blog entitled ‘Around British Churches’. Recently he has featured the Parish Church of St Martin in Chipping Ongar. For more go to: For others in Essex, which currently include Greensted and Waltham Abbey, go to:

Brazier family

A local surname to this area is Brazier. I remember a George Brazier living in Norton Road, Ingatestone until about 1980. Anyway, for links and a thread to the genealogy go to:

Tributes to Henry Allingham and Harry Patch

Not a local celebrity but national heroes – as were all the others who served in the First World War. Henry Allingham, the world’s oldest man, died on 18th July 2009 aged 113. And ‘You tube’ connections: and

Harry Patch “quietly slipped away” at a nursing home in Wells, aged 111, on 25th July 2009. He and others came to present the last of a generation who, thankfully, were encouraged in their later years to share their war experiences. His biography, ‘The Last Fighting Tommy’ (Bloomsbury, 2008) is a lasting oral testimony. Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, calls for a national memorial service to remember the generation of people who fought in the First World War. The Queen said, "We will never forget the bravery and enormous sacrifice of his generation, which will continue to serve as an example to us all." An obituary given by the BBC can be seen by following these links: ,, and

By way of tribute, I repeat the book review published on this blog last year as part of the Great War commemoration.

There is nothing singularly remarkable about Harry Patch’s service in the Great War. At 18 he was called up (conscription was compulsory) to serve ‘King and Country’ and spent time on the Western Front in Passchendaele before being wounded in September 1917 and sent home to recuperate. The story of this Somerset man is replicated across millions of his generation. But the fact that at the age of 108, as one of the oldest surviving veterans of the First World War, he decided to write an autobiography telling of his experience is remarkable. Only in recent years, since the age of 100, has Harry decided to tell his story. Like almost all who served the vivid remembrance of the battles is something which was not talked about. Harry Patch was born in 1898. In his training for military service, this plumber by trade, learned to use a Lewis Gun and be a second team member of six. He describes the closeness of this small group, the sharing of the cigarettes, pipe tobacco and cake sent from home, the mutual support in times of trouble, and the sadness afterwards learning that three of his mates were blown up by a shell which injured Harry in the stomach with a two inch piece of shrapnel which was removed without anaesthetic because there was none available. Life in the trenches is talked about and the fear that the men had of not surviving perhaps the next day. He mentions going ‘over the top’, those wounded and those shell shocked by the experience.

“We will remember them”.


For an extensive list of links to other sites go to: