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:

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