Thursday, 31 December 2009

Ingatestone: The Rectory Facing Demolition

Twenty years ago today (31 December 1989) these pictures were taken of Ingatestone Rectory which faced demolition to make way for Rectory Close between Willow Green and Wadham Close. Earlier that year Canon Edward Hudson had died. His memorial can be seen in Buttsbury Church.

Friday, 25 December 2009

Ingatestone: High Street

Ingatestone High Street, photographed on 31 December 1989. Little has changed - apart from the traffic. Where is it in this picture?

Friday, 18 December 2009

Writtle: Two Emma Tock

Signs on entry to the county town declare, ‘Chelmsford. Birthplace of Radio’. The story of wireless in Essex is little known and much forgotten.

In 1899, Guglielmo Marconi opened the world’s first radio factory in Hall Street, and later, in 1909, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics “in recognition of [his] contribution to the development of wireless telegraphy": ( The name Marconi is synonymous with Chelmsford. Many men and women once had apprenticeships with this electronics Company, now a shadow of its former self following the end of the Cold War. But in terms of the wireless the year 1920 saw the beginning of the first broadcasting service. Captain H J Round had developed the first transmitter over which Dame Nellie Melba was heard in June that year. This famous artiste was sponsored by Lord Northcliffe of the Daily Mail to give a 30 minute concert over the airwaves, and many listened in. But the service was sporadic.

An except from ‘Essex Pie’ tells the story of how radio came to Writtle. “We received a letter from head office saying that the amateurs, in the form of the Radio Society of Great Britain, wanted the Marconi Company to design, install and maintain a station on their behalf and that we had better do the job at Writtle.” P. P. Eckersley: 'The Power behind the Microphone', 1941. (

So it was in 1922, broadcasting from an ex-Army hut in Lawford Lane in Writtle, “Two Emma Tock”, 2MT Writtle, became the first regular entertainment broadcaster ( Beginning on 14th February on Tuesday evenings for just half an hour Captain P P Eckersley entertained listeners with gramophone records and merry banter. Programmes were planned in a nearby public house – the Cock and Bell – now Blue Bridge Restaurant and Bar (renamed and opened about two years ago) and if some stories are to be believed the pub piano was occasionally rolled down the road to the makeshift studio. These were pioneering days!

The website says:

‘2MT Writtle – The Birth of British Broadcasting’ by Tim Wander charts the full story of the early struggle to achieve a national broadcasting service in this country – from the famous 1920 broadcast of Dame Nellie Melba in Chelmsford, through Writtle’s sparkling success to the birth of the BBC in 1923.

“Peter Eckersley became Britain’s first DJ, and the light-hearted spirit which pervaded the whole proceedings and sheer joie de vivre that bubbled across the ether were not only a first but truly unique in the history of broadcasting.

“Often a one-man show, but always a team effort, the radio station known as 2MT at Writtle established an individuality all its own which forever remained a pleasant memory to its broadcast audience and wrote a crucial chapter in the history of radio and broadcasting.”

In 1982, Essex Radio (now no more) produced a documentary ‘Sixty Years of Radio’ commemorating the beginning of regular commercial broadcasting.

Today the ex-Army Hut from which 2MT was broadcast is housed at the ‘Chelmsford Science and Industry Museum’ at Sandford Mill, Chelmsford. It is open to the public on Sundays in August each year. Chelmsford Amateur Radio Society have a report for 2009 ( and photographs of the hut where radio commenced (

Further reading:

Page from BBC Essex website about ‘Marconi Day’ celebrations held at Sandford Mill in April 2007:

Wikipedia entry:

Friday, 4 December 2009

Ingatestone: George Sherrin, architect (1843 - 1909)

The coming of the railway in the 1840s through Ingatestone from London ended the stage coach trade and the town’s trade fell into decline. However by the 1880s it was realised that Ingatestone would be a convenient place for out of town commuters. In 1882 George Sherrin (1843 – 1909) took a number of plots, notably in Station Lane, and built a number of desirable country residences for the middle classes. According to James Bettley, “Station Lane is the place to study the domestic work of George Sherrin”. The houses were built in a Georgian style of red brick with false timber work.

I want though to write something different about George Sherrin’s houses.

Nowadays many of these properties remain. Ardtully, nearest to the High Street, has since 1983 been a residential home for the elderly and is no longer occupied by a single family. Fairwinds, imprisoned behind high private gates was once named The Chantry and was during the 1970s (and probably before) a hotel. I remember Station Lane at that time before the houses were built on the opposite side of the road and before Dutch Elm Disease ravaged this tree-lined road. The stumps of one or two of these majestic trees remain by the roadside.

The Gate House today

Next to Fairwinds is the Red House then towards the station and the level crossing is The Gate House, the former home of the architect. After Sherrin’s death the building became a school and remained one until the 1940s. By the late 1970s The Gate House was empty and prey to vandals and its future was in doubt. However in the 1980s the house was greatly extended and in the gardens Gate House Mews created.

The Gate House when it was a school

For a more extensive description about the area and Sherrin’s house follow the link to the “Ingatestone Station Lane Conservation Area Report”.

Lightoaks on the Mill Green road was demolished in early 2009. When the Midsummer’s Day hailstorm hit the area in 1897 newspaper reports told of the fall of the chimneys without the occupants, who were inside the property, knowing of the damage such was the ferocity of the storm. My rather poor photograph, taken from the road, illustrates this building now gone. James Bettley’s excellent book ‘Essex’ in the Buildings of England series has a pen and ink drawing citing it as “his usual picturesque combination of brick and half-timbered gables”. For more about Lightoaks history and fate read the local Council planning report:

Lightoaks (taken 2006)

Tuesday, 1 December 2009


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

Christmas Greetings

Blackmore Post Office, on a snowy day in February 2009.

The Making of Modern Britain

Andrew Marr’s prequel to the ‘History of Modern Britain’ is completing its six programme run on BBC television. ‘The Making of Modern Britain’ covers the period from the death of Queen Victoria in 1901 to the end of the Second World War in 1945. Programme 4, which covered the 1920s, is of local interest. Part of the programme is devoted to the development of radio. There is a scene outside the Marconi works at Chelmsford, and the recollection of Dame Nellie Melba’s visit to the town in 1920 to broadcast songs across the wireless. The film then moves to the green at Writtle and village sign to tell how regular weekly broadcasts began in February 1922 in an ex-army hut with the call sign 2MT. The broadcasts were planned in the former Cock and Bell pub, now the Blue Bridge restaurant. Viewers see a shot of this building. E P Eckersley was the first presenter from whom Marr says “Terry Wogan. Late Night Talk Shows and Radio One all began”. An item on 2 Emma Tock (2MT) Writtle appears on the blog this month. Mention was also made that Winston Churchill was returned in the 1920s as a Conservative MP for Epping. This great man appears in every programme, such was his stature in Britain and British politics. The accompanying book is highly recommended to me by a friend.

Gardeners World

Also on TV, Carol Klein charted the role of women in horticulture in a special edition of Gardeners World. She visited Warley Place telling the story of Ellen Wilmott, one of the greatest plants-women of the early twentieth century. The grounds are now in the hands of the Essex Wildlife Trust.

Dudness. Essex. Where is it?

Braisher T (aka Tamsin) wrote recently on

“Hi. One of my ancestors is repeatedly listed on censuses as having been born in Dudness, Essex. Web searches only show up other census entries for Dudness - I can't find any reference to a past or present place with this name! Anyone have any ideas?”

… later adding …

“I've found another return for the same ancestor with what looks to be Dodenhurst. So maybe Dudness could be a contraction of Doddinghurst in Brentwood? Or maybe that's just wishful thinking!”

I can actually say with some confidence that the parish in question is Doddinghurst. When my grandfather signed up for a second tour of duty in the Army following the First World War his papers say he was born in “Doddnerst”. (He wasn’t born there but that is not the point.) Put on an Essex accent and you end up with various spellings. Durrant’s Handbook of Essex 1887 – produced in Chelmsford - (p91) refers to “Doddinghurst (often pronounced Dod’n’st)”. Good luck in finding your Duddinghurst ancestors!

High Ongar War Memorial

Thanks to Paul HP, a record of the names on the War Memorial at High Ongar is recorded on ‘Flicker’. Follow this link to Private George William Wright (mistakenly transcribed as C. W. Wright) and others.
The whole set for St Mary’s Church, High Ongar and the War Memorial can be viewed on

‘Harlow Irish’ Essex Sets

Paul HP is a prolific photographer and contributor to ‘Flicker’. He covers the following parishes:
Abbess Roding (St Edmund’s Church):
Beauchamp Roding (St Botolph’s Church):
Berners Roding (redundant church of All Saints):
Fryerning (St Mary the Virgin):
Greensted-juxta-Ongar (St Andrew’s Church):
High Laver (St Andrew’s Church):
Little Laver (St Mary The Virgin):
Magdalen Laver (St Mary’s Church):
Matching (St Mary The Virgin):
Norton Mandeville (All Saints’ Church):
Willingale (St Christopher’s Church, Willingale Doe & St Andrew’s Church, Willingale Spain):

Finally for the whole Essex collection go to

Porter Family in Writtle

Andrea63 on Genes Reunited gives some information about the Porter family of Writtle, who emigrated to Australia, but asks questions about “joining the dots”. See link:;topicseen

Blackmore Families Index

Some Blackmore families on the web:

William Byrd Biography

Another biography of the local Elizabethan composer of Stondon Massey has appeared on the internet. Go to:

A Civilian in The Second World War: The Diaries of E J Rudsdale

Eric Rudsdale (1910 – 1951) was a curator at Colchester Castle Museum in Essex. Since the age of 10 he had kept a diary but, feeling that the outbreak of the Second World War was a tumultuous moment decided to maintain regular entries about the north Essex town and its area. “The aim of this blog is to show, through Eric’s observations, how the town and the people he knew were directly affected by war. The diary extracts, therefore, have been edited to reflect this aim and, as Eric did not always write an entry in his diary every day, there are days when no entry appears in this account. Where necessary, short commentaries will be provided to give the historical context for the events he describes in his journal.” Although not in our area this is a ‘Blog of Note’ for all historians and recorders.

1939 Census

The BBC has reported calls for a census taken on the outbreak of the Second World War to be released. The emergency headcount was taken for the purpose of issuing Identity Cards. After the 1921 census, which is due for release in 2022, genealogists will have to wait a whole generation for more data to be made available. A census was not taken in 1941, and the 1931 census was destroyed by fire. For more on 1939 see:

Essex Police

Martyn Lockwood has written a new book entitled ‘The Essex Police Force’ covering 170 of policing in the county. For more follow:

Blackmore Area Local History

This project is now two years old so it is appropriate to take stock and announce plans for 2010.

The database continues to grow with at least 50 pages now on the main website and 350 entries on this blog. Without having a hit counter on this blog it is difficult to know the number of people who visit but in the first year of its operation (to 31 October 2009), the main site received 514 visitors.

Between 2005 and 2008 I was involved in producing scripts for two productions of ‘Through Changing Scenes’ at the churches of Blackmore and Stondon Massey. The event led to the creation of two books: ‘Blackmore. A Short History’ and ‘Stondon Massey. A Short History’ both of which are currently available. These are extended versions of the text used in the performances. These events will not be repeated – because it is right to move on to other projects – but it seems a shame to leave them unpublished. I have decided to add the original scripts to the site. The Blackmore script may be found on and the Stondon Massey script on

Also new to the website is ‘Blackmore. Then and Now’ ( This includes copies of postcards I have from the early twentieth century with comparative photographs taken recently.

Until recent years I lived in Ingatestone so I have known of the large houses in Station Lane for a lifetime. These were built by architect George Sherrin who died in 1909. We remember his work on the blog this month with additional pictures now on the Ingatestone page (

Plans for the website for the next year include:
- uploading photographs taken in Ingatestone High Street in 1985
- creating a series of pages called ‘Blackmore. The Library Collection’ which will feature photographs I received from a collector who had a display in the former Blackmore local library back in the 1980s.

The blog will continue with local history news and feedback from readers. I am not planning new online projects for publication next year because I want to spend some time “off line” pursuing an historical topic.

Over the years (since 2004) I have written a number of booklets for sale in aid of church funds at Blackmore and Stondon Massey. Some sell well whilst others languish on the bookstall for months. I have decided to confine publications to a shortlist of best sellers. The final shortlist will appear on this blog soon. I am considering the publication some of the more obscure, but nonetheless interesting, material online.

The purpose of ‘Blackmore Area Local History’ is to share knowledge of local heritage. It is always a pleasure to receive contributions, comments and questions from readers. The worldwide web is a fabulous resource and means of sharing and encouraging further research. The Internet has opened opportunities for contact to be made from people all over this planet – from people in America and Australia, to other places in Essex as well as literally around the corner to where I live.

Thanks for visiting the sites. Enjoy!


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