Friday, 23 October 2009

Mountnessing: Postcards

A selection of postcards of Mountnessing dating from the early twentieth century are now available to view on the main website. Visit .

The illustration here is of The Plough public house before it was rebuilt.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Roxwell: The Bridges Family of Cooksmill Green (1)

Maureen-Garnham Lopez is the daughter of Frederick Wilfred Garnham who was born in 1914 at Radley Green. In this story she recalls family life in nearby Cooksmill Green where her father grew up living with his own mother and grandparents.

She writes:

I always loved going to Cooksey, when the weather was nice. Mum would put the youngest children in a pram and we would all walk from Chelmsford. When it was spring time, we would stop and pick primroses along the way. Our trip started by walking down Melbourne Road, Chignal Road, to Roxwell Road and then taking the back roads to Grandma's.

Dad [Frederick Wilfred Garnham] loved his childhood home. You could tell by his mannerism that Cooksey had his heart. My mother was not so keen on ever moving out to the country but she knew that the time was coming.

Grandad [Percy Bridges, who married by grandmother following Fred Garnham's death in WW1] had given dad some land next to Uncle Ron [Bridges] and we knew that a house would be built there one day. At that time there was an old wooden house on the property. I believe that it was empty, as kids we never went to look or even ask about it.

[Percy Bridges was born in this house in 1895 and lived there until he died in 1974.]

I always thought Cooksey had it own smells. There were many flowers, roses (my dad's favourite plant), grass, baking and even the outhouse. The outhouse was out back, the path ran alongside the chicken coop, its seat was made of wooden boards with a hole in the middle. There was a smell to it, a very pleasant clean smell.

You could always hear the chickens, especially the roosters early in the mornings letting us know a new day has started. Grandma would collect the eggs in a basket and my sister Muriel [Garnham] said that she got served many an egg when she stayed there.

The large gardens were kept immaculately. There was a large green apple tree in the middle of the two houses. Grandma would make apple sauce with them. Grandad Bridges was always pondering around the garden dressed in or they looked like to me, woollen army beige colour pants with suspenders, a long sleeve shirt rolled up and boots. He was a very big man with full lips, but not much hair.

Outside the back door of grandma's house was a silver colour metal thing. I thought it was so neat, it was used to clean the mud or dirt off your boots, shoes, or whatever you were wearing. When you entered through the back door - it was the only one we used - there was a very small room, much like a closet only it was square shaped. Inside this was a sink and a draining board. You would turn left, go through the dining, living room into the so-called kitchen. A table sat in front of the window, when Grandad came in for tea or a meal, he always sat on the right side. I remember him smacking those big lips as he was enjoying whatever he was drinking or eating.

Grandma was always walking back and forth, back and forth to the sink from the kitchen. The floor was wooden with linoleum on top but the boards were loose, you could always hear her footsteps. The walls and ceiling had beautiful wooden beams running down and across them. There was a fireplace to warm you on a cold day. Upstairs in one of the bedrooms, the floor was slanted, so Grandma had placed wooden blocks behind the feet of the bed so it wouldn't move.

Uncle Ron [Bridges] lived next door with his wife Betty and baby daughter Sandra. I would go during the summer holidays and spend time with them. I would help my aunt sweep and clean her house. We would set the table at night for my uncle's breakfast in the morning. Beside the table, in the wall was an aquarium you could see the fish from the living and dining room.

I would take my cousin [Sandra] for a ride in her pram. I would take a left at the end of the lane and go towards the road to Ongar, never making it to the end. We'd passed the red post box, the little old store that sold everything, but I remember the sweets most. There was a farm that had huge pigs, sometimes I would go the other way past the farm that had ducks. Several times I would stop to watch the mama duck cross the road with all her family, following single file behind her to go for a swim in the pond. At the end of the road was a cottage facing the road where it veered off to the left to Roxwell, right "back roads" as my dad said to Chelmsford. Granddad Bridges Grandfather lived with his family there at one time.

In the bedroom that I slept in, the window was low to the floor, maybe six inches above it. Aunt Betty would always make homemade muffins, were they good, the smell would fill the air, wow!

Just a few years ago, I visited Uncle Ron with [my husband] Adolfo, camera in hand and asked if we could film him while I asked questions about the family, especially about my mum and dad. I wanted to know if he knew how they met, he obliged with our wishes and it was great, we got new information.

Uncle Ron was living in Grandma's Bridge’s (his mother's) house at the time. Colin, my youngest brother and I went over to his house. Uncle Ron offered to show us around the house. Colin was so pleased as he had not been inside the house in years. He did not remember how it looked. He was too young to remember. I took a few photos of the inside and I am glad I have them to share them with my family.

Colin and I have been working on the family tree with our brother Dennis and my daughter Amanda for a number of years now. Dennis also lives in Cooksey. All our family was at Dennis' for a B.B.Q. as I was visiting from the States. I went over to Uncle Ron's. He was sitting outside with his second wife. I asked him if he had any pictures of grandma when she was younger. I had only one of her by herself, middle aged, standing by the pond, it was taken in their yard. Uncle Ron told me he had taken the picture himself. Uncle Ron's wife left the table and went inside, when she returned she had something that was worth a million dollars to me. In her hand was a picture of Fred Garnham and wife Rosa, I had never seen are heard anything about this picture. The family had known of only one other picture of him. I was so excited, overjoyed, how could this be, before my dad died, did he know this photo existed? I didn't think so. She also had other picture of grandma. I asked if I could take them to show to my brothers and sister, she said yes. They were overjoyed. I returned them back to her and asked if she could get copies of the photos. She did and now all my family now have copies of their own.

Last year, 2008, we met some people on the Internet that were family. It was a couple of days before we were due to leave to England. My daughter Amanda was trying to teach me how to get on the Internet to find somebody. She said pick a name, it is so easy, I said Percy Bridges. The next morning, we had six hits. Of these we made contact with a Dennis Bridges.

We arranged to meet at Cooksey later on. Uncle Ron was no longer living but his wife was so gracious enough to have us all meet there. It was a grand meeting with all kinds of information and photos exchanged between each other. We learnt a lot more about the Bridges family.

My uncle's wife has given me copies of other documents and photos and I am forever grateful. She told me once "only you would ask". That is true.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Stondon Massey: Family Secrets. The Smith / Garnham family

Maureen Garnham-Lopez writes:

During 2005, Adolfo and I made several visits to the Essex Record Office (ERO) in Chelmsford [to look at the Census and Parish records held there on microfiche]. This was always an exciting time for us as we always liked looking for our family members. We find this very rewarding.

When looking for family in Stondon Massey, we came across a burial of a Joseph Smith long known as George Garnham. Who is he, is he our George? He was the right age, right place, everything matched up to our George.

It all then added up. That was why we could not find a birth certificate of George or a marriage to (Great-Grandma) Harriet Garnham.

Something must have happened to Harriet or James Garnham (her second husband) before 1881 since their oldest daughter Alice was placed in a workhouse and Rosa Emily was placed with family members.

In 1891, Harriet appears in Romford, Essex with someone calling himself George Garnham with a son Frederick Garnham. They moved to Stondon Massey before 1901 and lived at the Soaphouse Farm.

Harriet Lewis first married a George Smith. Her second marriage was to James Garnham. Did Joseph Smith steal those two names? In the 1911 censes they were still living together at the Soaphouse Farm. George and Harriet lived at least ten or more years at the farm. I believe until they became too sick to take care of themselves, Harriet was living in Radley Green at the time of her death, while George was in the Stanford Rivers Poor House [Ongar Union Workhouse] at the time of his death. Both passed away in the same year 1916: Harriet in April, George in November, and are buried at Stondon Massey.

I started thinking of my father Frederick Wilfred Garnham losing his father, Frederick Garnham at 4 days old, and his grandparents George and Harriet at the age of 2. All he knew was his mother. [Frederick Garnham was killed in the Retreat from Mons at the beginning of the First World War.]

Most of all, who was this man calling himself George Garnham? Then this meant, who are we? Have we been Garnham by name all these years but are Smith's by blood. What secret was Stondon Massey holding about all of us and why?

In my heart, I believe that Joseph Smith became George Garnham when he got involved with Great-Grandma Harriet Garnham.

It saddens me greatly to think our family tree ends here on the Garnham side, it is our namesake. Why the lies and for what reason did this information come out at the burial at Stondon Massey. What did Revd Reeve know, and if anything, what did he think. Did he really know George Garnham?

In the 1901 Census

Harriet and George Garnham lived in Stondon Massey at the Soaphouse Farm. They had a boarder named Arthur Bolt, 9 years old, birthplace unknown.

Revd Reeve mentioned an Arthur Bolt, 11th November 1918. At this time I have no idea whom this person is, maybe family somehow, another mystery person. Other family members mentioned with Arthur are Alec Shuttleworth and a Arthur H. Watts, both are relatives of mine.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Roxwell: Remembering Fred Garnham of Radley Green

As part of the commemoration of the Great War, 'Blackmore Area Local History' remembered Fred Garnham who died in the retreat from Mons in 1914. I was delighted when family members made contact, kindly giving more information and feel priviliged to be able to publish a copy of the '1914 Star' (or 'Mons Star') given posthumously to his widow, Rosa, in 1917. Fred Garnham was baptised at Stondon Massey, he later moved to Radley Green. He is commorated on the memorials at Highwood and Roxwell. For more pictures visit

Friday, 2 October 2009

Fryerning: Footpath Find

This piece of stone was lying on a public track en route to Blackmore. It known as 'pudding stone' because of its plum pudding appearance.

Thursday, 1 October 2009


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

A Farming and Family Centenary Celebration

Descendents of Arthur Henry Smith had a party recently to celebrate one hundred years of farming at Jordans Farm in Mountnessing. It was to there, in 1909, that my grandfather became a tenant farmer on land owned by Lord Petre. My cousin still farms the same land which is a great achievement and cause for celebration. The gathering, attended by many family and friends, provided an opportunity to view photographs and other memorabilia. Those into family history displayed their research and in preparation for the occasion I researched Arthur’s ancestors.

Researching a Smith family line at first sight sounds a daunting task given the fact that the name is common so I went with an open mind to the Essex Record Office one Monday morning. I had already obtained the census record for 1901 (when Arthur, aged 16, was living with his family) and the free listing of the 1881 census (obtainable from But within the space of three hours I had established the name of my gt gt gt gt grandfather, Henry, through using census records back to 1841 and parish registers copied onto microfiche. Why? It quickly became apparent that my family had lived throughout the nineteenth century in the parishes of Stock and Buttsbury.

I will be posting my findings shortly on

This month’s photo is of Jordans Farm, taken in 1954, with thraves (known as stooks elsewhere) of corn in the foreground.

Early Essex Parish Registers Online

In April 2009 ‘Blackmore Area Local History’ reported that the Essex Record Office had embarked on a project, called ‘Essex Ancestors’, to digitise and put on-line through SEAX (the catalogue of archives) colour images of original Anglican Parish Registers (except marriage registers less than 50 years old). Early Parish Registers for local parishes are now available to view through SEAX ( ‘Blackmore Area Local History’ will monitor progress and hopefully provide links this autumn to images through the ‘Parish Registers’ page of the main website. In the meantime Registers can be viewed on microfiche at the Searchroom.

The major advantage is that wherever you are in the world you can look up ancestors from the comfort of your armchair without going to Chelmsford. Those American friends, for example, looking for the Smyth family in Blackmore can see the original register entries for the first time and no doubt copy extracts. In this respect this is a marvellous innovation.

But is there a downside? If all Registers and Census material goes online will this mean a reduction in the footfall of visitors to archive searchrooms. As someone said to me when I visited the Record Office recently, this can be no substitute for talking with others during your coffee break as often other ideas come to the fore through networking. At a time when the National Archives (at Kew) is likely to close to the public every Monday, in order to make cuts, I am quietly concerned that access to original documents – e.g. church records, wills, inventories, house sales – could become more restricted. I can see the dilemma: an attempt to increase access to records and make cuts to the front line service. Taken to its extreme there must be a danger that these vast store houses of history and local interest become the preserve of academics, frightening off casual visitors and enthusiastic amateur historians. I trust that those responsible for our heritage have a policy which ensures that these records continue to be available for all, and attract people from all walks of life to learn about the past.

This is not a criticism, just an observation. At present I have found most archivists to be very approachable and only too willing to point people in the right direction.

Historic Villages advertised by Beresfords Estate Agents

An innovative way of advertising local properties, amenities and, for this site, history has been created by Beresfords, a local estate agent. Local villages are covered in short ‘You Tube’ presentations.
For Writtle, go to:
For Ingatestone (and a quick mention of Mountnessing, Stock, Fryerning and Blackmore) go to:
For Shenfield, go to:
For Brentwood, go to


David Mallinson, from Denver Colorado USA, wrote on 13th September 2009: “I read with great interest your blog entry ( with respect to Fleming's (or Flemyngs's) Hall [Runwell] as my family owned the property from 1908 to 1986, and I myself lived there from 1967 until the property was sold in 1986.

“I note the source for the excellent rendering of the front of the house is the Rev Alfred Suckling's work 'Memorials of the antiquities and architecture, family history and heraldry of the County of Essex’ (John Weale, London, 1845). I would imagine that copies of the above work are hard to find nowadays, having said that do you know the whereabouts of any copies?”

The book itself is very rare but available through the Essex Libraries Network. The Essex Record Office has a copy. I purchased a very tatty copy, minus cover and all plates, from E bay a couple of years ago for about £20. I believe that in the book business this copy is called a "breaker" - all the good bits removed and sold on as framed pictures, unless, of course, one is interested as much in the text. Either that or I have just invented a new word for the Oxford English Dictionary.

London Underground

A sightseeing site in Botswana has been quick to pick up the reference in the Mangapps Farm Railway Museum item to the London Underground. It has added it to the numerous links on its history. See


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