Saturday, 31 December 2011

Ongar: An extract from the Commonplace Book of Edward Reeve c1860

The question was asked “What is one of the most difficult things to do?”

“To give advice”.

And what is the other difficulty?

“To follow it”.

Friday, 30 December 2011

Ongar: An extract from the Commonplace Book of Edward Reeve c1860

What is said kindly, ought always to be remembered, what unkindly, to be forgotten.

It is best to let children read what they like best, till they have formed a taste for reading, and not to direct what books they shall read.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Ongar: An extract from the Commonplace Book of Edward Reeve c1860

The word ‘gentleman’ is an expressive word in our language, which describes the assemblage of many real virtues, of many qualities approaching nearly to virtue, and a union of manners, at once pleasing, and accommodating respect.

Take a peep behind the curtain which prudence draws over domestic inquietude, reflect on the many heart-aches that must attend a slender contracted income in this very refined age (1859) and think in such circumstances how external shew must be supported at the expense of internal and rational quiet.

The Robin is a bird whose good fortune is never to be mentioned without some kindly reference to his universal popularity and the decoration (his little red waistcoat) which renders him so easily recognised.

Shakespear says “Welcome ever smiles, but farewell goes out sighing”.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Ongar: An extract from the Commonplace Book of Edward Reeve c1860

It is said of Theodore Hook, when upon a visit, before breakfast was asked, the usual question “How he slept” his answer was immediately “With his eyes shut”.

And after a dinner party upon his return home he could not find his Hat, and began singing to the servants:
“Shepherds I have lost my Hat
Can you tell me, where it’s stray’d”.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Ongar: An extract from the Commonplace Book of Edward Reeve c1860

The qualities in a man for which a woman generally gives the preference, are ardour, manliness of person, politeness, confidence, a dazzling knowledge of the world, and elegant flattery.

Conversation is a game for two, and that one equal half-part should consist in listening, and not in mere angling for questions on which to hang story after story.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Epping: Funeral of Prince Albert, 23 December 1861

A single sheet of paper found in a contemporary book I purchased in a secondhand bookshop in Norwich tells how the people of Epping marked the funeral of Prince Albert, Consort to Queen Victoria, on this day in 1861. A Service was held at St John's Chapel, now St John's Church, at the bottom of the High Street.

Prince Albert is credited with being a key organiser of The Great Exhibition at the Crystal Palace in 1851 and for making Christmas trees popular in British homes at this time of year. His early death has a devastating effect on Queen Victoria, now a widow in her early 40s.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Ongar: An extract from the Commonplace Book of Edward Reeve c1860

Despatch Box

Mr Merry for many years was employed by our Government as a Diplomat, and retired to Dedham upon a Pension of fifteen hundred Pounds per annum for his services.  Upon his death, he appointed me [ER] his Executer, with a very handsome legacy, and his Diplomatic Gold Snuff Box.  As his Executer, and of the desire of his sister I became in possession of his Diplomatic, and valuable boxes, one in particular termed the Despatch Box, with the Crown, and G.R. upon it.  I frequently used it when with my family.  I left home, the last time was in London, and in endeavouring to unlock it unfortunately broke the key, the only way to obtain the valuables enclosed was to destroy the bottom of the box, and the next morning I took it to a Locksmith in order to have it immediately repaired.  In the evening I called for it, and to my great surprise was requested to leave the Shop and retire into the Counting House, where I found Mr Pairce the Superintendent of the Police waiting to take me as a State Prisoner, and convey me without delay to the Foreign Office.  It appeared the reason for this rather unexpected compliment, arose as consequence of an inscription engraved inside the lock stating, “If any person shall be detected injuring this Lock, the informer shall upon conviction of the offender, receive 100£ reward by applying to the Foreign Office”.  The Locksmith lost no time in conveying the mutilated box and key to the Office required, and Lord Palmenston sent the Superintendent to secure and bring before him the delinquent.  When we arrived, his Lordship was gone home but left Lord Minto, in his unavoidable absence.  The Lordship’s first inquiry was, “Who are you, Sir, and in what manner became you possessed of the Government Box?”  No sooner was he satisfied with my honest answers, than he begged my pardon, confessed the Mountain had proved a Mole Hill, and hoped I would partake of their dinner in waiting, which I endeavoured politely to decline, feeling very naturally not a little annoyed at my first appearance in the character of a State Prisoner.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Ongar: A Reverie

An extract from ‘An Anthology of Essex, published in 1911.

Oh quaint old Essex town!  Your sheltered ways
Have fared so gently in this vale of tears;
That looking back with thought of other days,
One sees no change to mark the passing years.
I hear the same wind whisp’ring thro’ the trees,
Where Livingstone once wandered with his books:
I hear the same low murmur of the bees,
And recognise the cawing of the rooks.

Oh peaceful Essex town!  you’re very old;
The Romans built within your lines a camp;
Your stones have oft resounded, so I’m told,
With Caesar’s sturdy warriors’ martial tramp:
I hear their shouts re-echo in the breeze;
Ye Britons, read about them in your books;
The sounds of Roman axe and falling trees
Are heard above the cawing of the rooks.

Oh, quiet old Ongar town!  I’ve heard it said
When Cromwell and his Ironsides held their sway,
That many of your sons both fought and bled
To help the King they loved to win the day.
I heard the cry ‘For Cromwell and the Lord!’
Whilst students donned the helm and closed their books,
The sound of war’s alarms, the clash of pike and sword
Were heard above the cawing of the rooks.

Some day, I hope my ship will come to town,
And bring to me the fortune overdue;
I’ll buy a little cot and settle down,
And make my home, old Ongar town, with you.
I’ll rise each day to greet the early dawn,
And dawdle with my fishing and my books;
I’ll wander through the cornfields in the morn,
And listen to the cawing of the rooks.

A.L.M. Loughton Gazette, April 1910.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Chigwell: Dickens Bi-Centenary

An extract from ‘An Anthology of Essex’, edited by Charlotte Fell Smith, published in 1911

Chigwell, my dear fellow, is the greatest place in the world.  Name your day for going. Such a delicious old inn opposite the churchyard – such a lovely ride – such beautiful forest scenery – such an out-of-the-way rural place – such a sexton! I say again, name your day!

Charles Dickens. Letter to John Forster, 1842.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Ongar: An extract from the Commonplace Book of Edward Reeve c1860

“A Fact”

Ensign W soon after he joined his Regiment at Liverpool, was passing through a very retired Street or rather Lane, and was caught in a pelting storm of hail and rain.  In order to save his Regimental Coat, for he could ill afford to buy another, he took shelter under a Wall immediately opposite a most dingy looking House, in which resided an old gentleman, who had retired from trade with a very large fortune, his only child a daughter living with him.  If there was any person in the World he disliked the most, it was a Military Man, always entertaining the idea, that some Rattle Cap of a Fortune Hunter might one day, or night endeavour to elope, with the only joy of his heart, his favourite daughter Eliza.  The Ensign had not remained but a short time under the Wall, before the young lady spied him out, and called her father to witness the piteous situation of the stranger, and endeavoured to persuade her father to offer an umbrella.  After a great deal of cunning she prevailed.  When he mentioned his morning adventure at Mess, his brother officers all called out, “depend upon it my good fellow, your fortune is made, for in that very house you have described lives an old Screw, whose daughter will possess many thousand charms when the old fellow kicks the bucket”.  They all advised him that on no account to send the Umbrella back, but to carry it himself, which he did.  He experienced great difficulty in obtaining an entry, but made himself so excessively agreeable, in expressing thanks, that the old gentleman invited him to dinner if he would condescend to join his dinner table at the early hour of two o’clock.  At ¼ before two the happy Ensign in full Regimentals and Review Order made his appearance.  No heiress however made her appearance but he took care to observe, the table was prepared for number 3, and at the three sat down to a very plain dinner.  Wine it has always been said does wonders, and the Evening was spent in a manner very agreeable to all parties present, the old gentleman as well as his daughter quite delighted with their unexpected guest, who in the course of a short period became his Son in Law, but, upon one express stipulation, that he would, upon his marriage, resign his conscription in the Army.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Chelmsford: Inscription on Bell at St Mary's

Taken from 'An Anthology of Essex', published in 1911

To honour both God and King
Our voices shall in consort ring.

Friday, 9 December 2011

High Ongar: Inscription on Bell

Taken from 'An Anthology of Essex', edited by Charlotte Fell Smith, published in 1911.

Whilst thus we join in cheerful sound, May love and loyalty abound - 1775

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Ongar: An extract from the Commonplace Book of Edward Reeve c1860

Captain Garnham

My friend, and brother officer, Capt. Garnham, was one of the most agreeable, and entertaining companions, when he chose, as the following adventure will prove.  When we were stationed at Liverpool we had permission from Sir Chas. Bunbury to shoot over his Estate near Chester, our shooting expedition did not answer, for the best of reasons, we found little, or no game to shoot, and upon our return we dined at the table d’hote at the Castle Hotel, where the party was rather numerous both of ladies and gentlemen.  We found ourselves seated next to Capt. and Mrs Hoy, with her brother, a very elegant and handsome young officer.  They did not appear by any means inclined to be sociable, but kept themselves quite aloof.  My friend Garnham soon took the hint, and desired the waiter to place his wine and dessert upon a side table at the window, where he placed himself with his favourite little dog upon his lap.  I did all I possibly could to ingratiate myself into their favour, and fortunately succeeded.  I was delighted with their manner, and conversation, particularly relating to India, where they had been stationed for many years.  The young officer addressing his Sister mentioned Sir George August as their Uncle, the Chief in Command at Kingston Barracks Jamaica and it was there that Garnham had the yellow fever with his Regiment the 82nd.  Every one thought he would never recover, and he heard the pleasing order given for the Band, to attend his funeral the following morning.

I observed he appeared to be listening to the conversation with a degree of interest rather unusual and upon hearing the name of Sir Geo. August his former Colonel he became exceedingly agitated, he very nearly knocked down his table, and stamped upon his little dog.  Endeavouring to approach our party, and requesting the young stranger would favor him with his Name, which he very sternly answered by saying, “My name is Captain Meredith, if you wish to know it”.  Garnham immediately, with his usual exclamation “God help me” embraced him most affectionately, and every body thought him labouring under some fit of insanity.  As soon as he had recovered himself he said, “My dear fellow, the last time I saw you was twenty years ago, you were then five years of age, and upon the death of your dear Mother I brought you up with the greatest care, and regard” at Kingston Barracks. 

It’s impossible to describe the effect of this scene, his sister fell into the arms of her husband, many pocket handkerchiefs were in immediately request with the ladies, and many of the gentlemen present, joined in the chorus of sighing, and sobbing, and as soon as the ladies retired to the Drawing Room, “Wine, more Wine, was the order of the Day” and we kept it up until the last half hour, when we were compelled to return again to Liverpool.

I understand afterwards, the Mother of the hero of my tale, was very much beloved of my friend Garnham, when he was a Subaltern he would have married her, but she preferred being united to the Major.  He mentioned her name only once, and then with great emotion he said, “You are indeed my dear boy, very like your blessed Mother”.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Ongar: An extract from the Commonplace Book of Edward Reeve c1860

Life in the West Suffolk Militia
A Letter

Newcastle.   12th July 1810

Mr dear Major,

The Masquerade went off extremely well and I regret very much you were not there for I am certain you would have enjoyed the fun very much – No expense was spared, and I have heard it cost our friend Lamb at least £300.  Supper was laid for 350 and as usual Mr Gunter displayed his great taste, and extravagance.  The first thing I saw, I observed in the lobby, was a pointed board “requesting the Ladies and Gentlemen to take off their Masques when the bell rang for supper”, and in my life I never heard such a row when this warning took place.  The Baronet’s [Sir Buckworth Harner] rich, and handsome court dress of Mrs Smith’s Father in the reign of Geo: the 2nd which she lent me, fitted exactly, and I soon found a Lady in the most superb dress to correspond with mine, we danced a minuet, and which was encored, but she begg’d to decline the honor, as it was very exciting, and rather too much expose she felt to be repeated.  I could not imagine who it could possibly be, but when the bell rang for supper, I discovered out favourite Lady Mayoress, Mrs Cookson.  Before we began our minuet, a hollow square was formed and I was told that during our performance much wispering and conjecturing, who we were, and some did not hesitate to declare, we were from the Theatre, and engaged for the occasion.

One of the best supported characters in the Rooms was a Quaker, I saluted him as Obadiah Prim and gave him at the same time a most hearty rap upon the back shoulders.  Who did you imagine it was?  General Johnson!

After supper I apologised for my familiarity but he begged I would not apologize as he considered my not knowing him was the greatest compliment I would possibly pay him.  Ralph Selby and Miss Waldie were capital, the former an old Duanna with her Grandaughter you know how very plain she is, and it’s a pity she ever appears in public without a very pretty masque, for her elegant figure was so much admired.  The Miss Pembertons as Sheppardesses I soon discovered by their pet lamb which the younger led with a blue ribbon and a flageolet suspended from her neck.  I requested she would favor me with a tune but she could not paly upon it.  I play’d for her ‘Fern of Aberdeen’ in compliment you know to her Scotch Lover, she was so astonished.  The two Miss Bakers as flower girls and their father as Tony Lumpkin were excellent characters.  I introduced my friend the Quaker and they prevailed on him to put a rose into the button hole of his demure coat, they discovered me by my laugh and then recommended a Rose as the Duke of Grafton was never seen without, and added Suffolk was a County they were well acquainted with – Our Rev. friend Orde (the priviledged man upon all occasions) proposed a toast: “May the innocent Lamb never meet with a Wolf in Sheep’s clothing” no one appeared more pleased with the toast than Lamb himself many however thought it rather severe wit and so did I.  Our Brigadier Major 6 feet high as a Boarding School Miss dress’d with a Pink sach and frock, and red slippers, the whole room were convulsed with laughter.  I hope you will soon return when I will give you a further description of the other characters, some worth hearing.

Yours faithfully
Edward Reeve

We expect a rout for Scotland any day, and I long to hear our Band strike up “The Girls we left behind us”.

Amongst the many observations of the Quaker, one was worth repeating, “Friend, if all thy faults, and peccadillos were written on thy waistcoat, thou wouldst button thy Coat”.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Ongar: An extract from the Commonplace Book of Edward Reeve c1860


In 1849 Edward Reeve (1785 – 1867), known as “the Captain” to his family, retired to Stondon Massey in Essex having served in the West Suffolk Militia (from 1808) and then a gentleman farmer in Dedham.  He purchased the advowson of Stondon Massey for his son and appointed him rector.  After Edward James’ marriage the Captain moved to The White House in Ongar.

This series of entries is edited from a manuscript written in the Captain’s hand between 1857 and 1867.  The work is known as a commonplace book which is described in a dictionary as “a notebook in which quotations, poems etc., that catch the owner’s attention are entered”.  It was the blog of its day.

The book came into my possession via a relative of the Reeve family.  It casts light on the ordinary lives of the privileged classes in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.  In short, it is a fascinating social history.

The text is the Captain’s own.

Andrew Smith

Thursday, 1 December 2011


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

Essex Ancestors
‘Essex Ancestors’ is a pay-per-view service offered online by the Essex Record Office displaying images (not transcripts) of parish registers (baptisms, marriages and burials).  The service was originally free of charge, although not as extensive as now, but in these difficult times Essex County Council (who run the excellent archive service) has found it necessary to charge.  This has upset a minority of researchers who believe that access to archives should be completely free – which it is at the Essex Record Office searchroom itself.  It’s difficult.  One-day access costs £5, with prices on a scale up to £75 for a year. 

The latest News from the Essex Record Office:
“Essex Ancestors was officially launched on Monday 7 November and it is clear the new service has been welcomed by genealogists and family historians. The project has been a demanding and complex one, resulting in Essex County Council’s first international trading. UK customers are in the great majority among our new clients so far, followed by Australians. The Americans have some catching up to do.

“We are planning to expand the range of images by completing parishes and wills. Other collections and record series are included in our digitisation programme and we welcome suggestions.

“The online accessibility of images of archives is an important contribution to the public’s awareness of historical documents, old handwriting and a long-lost way of life. We hope more people will be motivated to use original documents and become local historians.”

“To use Essex Ancestors visit or “.

Blackmore Area Local History
Today is the 4th anniversary of the blog, and judging by the number of visitors is more popular than ever – so I must be getting something right!  Thanks everyone. I usually set out plans for the coming year, but since I utterly failed to do what I said I would do last year – I got distracted partly with other projects – I will write little other than to say that the Doddinghurst commemoration of those who died in the First World War needs publication online. 

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

Friday, 25 November 2011

Theydon Mount: The Peoples' History of Essex (1861)

An extract from ‘The People’s History of Essex’ written by D.W. Coller, published in 1861.

Hill-Hall, the seat of Sir William Bowyer Smijth, Bart. – The third parish bearing the name Thoydon, with the distinctive title of Mount, is united with that of Stapleford Tawney; and high in its midst stands the noble seat of the ancient family of Smijth.  After climbing the hill top on which the mansion is erected, we enter a long avenue on the northern side of the park. As we traverse it, and when we reach the tasteful pleasure grounds and terrace, we look forth on a beautiful forest scene, and realize the description, long since given that “Hill-hall, in point of elegance and prospect, may be reckoned inferior to very few houses in this county.”  To the westward the finely-timbered park falls boldly into a deep wooded valley, beyond which the country gradually rises; and from this height we see its cultivated lands sprinkled over with farm-houses and villages, with the thick dark mass of the forest in the distance forming a back-ground to the rural landscape.  On the south and other sides extend views of equal sylvan beauty, which compel us to admire the taste of those who, even before the time of the Norman – for this was one of the lordships of Suene – planted their manor-house on this commanding spot.  The present hall id one of those fine massive old mansions which combine the solidity of the past with the elegancies of the present.  It is a quadrangular building, with very thick and lofty walls, erected near the site of the ancient edifice, by the ancestor of the present possessor in 1548.  On the north, the appearance of the structure, with its arched entrance and large massive door, leaves an impression of its original gloomy strength; but the eastern side is in the decorated Grecian style; and the southern or terrace front has been modernized and changed in character since the Elizabethan architect first raised the pile.  On entering the mansion, the visitor will be struck by the beauty and proportions of the great hall, which is adorned by some fine paintings, and decorated with specimens of ancient armour and arms wielded in the hand-to-hand combat on the olden battle-fields of the country. Along one side runs a handsome gallery, and in traversing it we glance with interest the curious object which obstructs our path, very unlike anything belonging to the equestrians of the present time – the veritable saddle on which Queen Elizabeth rode while sojourning at Horham Hall [near Thaxted], which was formerly one of the seats of the Smijth family. The dining and drawing rooms, and the library, are large and lofty apartments; and upon their walls is the finest array of family portraits we have seen in the county.  They form a pictorial history of the house of Smijth for the last three hundred years, mingled with paintings of royal and other personages with which it has been connected.  Many are by the master-hands of their time.  Amongst them are found portraits of Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth; Sit Thomas Smijth, the founder of the family, and the nephew to whom he left the estate; Charles I; the second Sir Thomas Smijth; Sir Edward Bowyer; the Black Prince; the present Lady Smijth (daughter of Sir Henry Meux); James I; James Smijth Esq. and his wife; Sir Edward Smijth and his Lady; Sir William Smijth, by Copley; Sir Edward Smijth, father of the present baronet; Joseph Windham, by Sir Godfrey Kneller; the Bishop of Salisbury, connected with the family in 1663; Sir Edward Smijth, by Sir Godfrey Kneller; Sir William Smijth (1777) by James Barry; and a host of others, interesting as specimens of art and curious as illustrating costumes of the different periods in which they were painted.

The family of Smijth is of great antiquity in the land.  By some it is traced up to Edward the Black Prince, as descended from Sir Roger de Clarendon, his natural son.  In Essex, however, it is of about three centuries standing.  About 1480, the estate was in the Hampden family, under the title of Thoydon-at-the-Mount and Hill-hall.  Sir John Hampden died in 1553, and his widow being jointured with this property, married Sir Thomas Smijth, knt., who bought the reversion of the estate, made it part of the family patrimony, and built the Hall.  Sir Thomas, who was the son of John Smijth, Esq., of Saffron Walden, sheriff of Essex and Herts in the reign of Henry VIII, was one of the most celebrated statesmen and accomplished scholars of his day, and the author of several learned works, amongst them “the English Commonwealth”, which has been several times reprinted.  He is described as a most excellent orator, mathematician, philosopher, and perfect in several of the modern languages.  These qualities marked him out for public duties and distinctions.  He was appointed secretary of state under Edward VI and Queen Elizabeth, was often employed in important foreign embassies and negotiations, and was made chancellor of the order of the garter.  Essex, too, was anxious to do him local honour, and twice elected him one of its knights in parliament.  He died in 1577, leaving his name honourably stamped on our political and literary history.  His epitaph, on the sumptuous tomb in the little village church, which stands within the park, contains a record of him – the original being in Latin:-

“Sir Thomas Smijth, knight, lord of the manor, privy councillor and principal secretary of state to both King Edward VI and to Queen Elizabeth, and then ambassador to the greatest kings, chancellor of the noble order of the garter, colonel of Arda and Southern Clonebey, in Ireland, honoured eben when a youth with the highest title of the civil law, a most excellent orator, mathematician, and philosopher, very skilled in the Latin, Greek, Hebrew, French, and Italian languages, a friend of the honest and ingenious man, singularly good, serviceable to many, hurtful to none, averse to revenge.  In short,  remarkable for his wisdom, piety and integrity, and in every part of life, whether sick or well, prepared for death. When he had completed the 65th year of his age, piously and sweetly slept in the Lord, at his seat of Mont-hall, on the 12th day of August, in the year of our salvation, 1577. – The glory of a short life makes a man famous when buried in the bowels of the earth.  My life was blameless; if after my death you hurt my fame (wretch) the Almighty will punish thee for so doing”.

The family have ever since held a high position in the county.  Several of its members distinguished themselves as soldiers; and one of them, a youth of fifteen, won himself a reputation as a volunteer under Prince Rupert in the civil wars.  The chancel of the church contains the monuments of many of them.  Of Sir Thomas Smijth, the first baronet, we are told, in these funereal records, that:-

“He lived 66 years with great reputation for loyalty to his prince and conformity to the church of England in apostate times, and served his king and country in chiefest places of trust and credit in the county”.

The present owner of Hill Hall is the eleventh baronet, the title being conferred to the family in 1661; and bears the name Bowyer prefixed to that of Smijth, the surname and arms of that family, in consequence of an intermarriage long previously, having been assumed by royal licence in 1839.

In Stapleford Tawney is Suttons, the seat of Sir Charles C. Smith, Bart.  It is a large and delightful mansion, the head of the manor which appears to have been cut off from the Hall, now belonging to Sir William Bowyer Smijth, but long the property of the De Tanys, a family in ancient times of high repute and large possessions in the county.  Sir C. Cunliffe Smith is descended from John Smith, Esq., a London merchant, who was created a baronet in 1804, and having married, as his second wife, the daughter of Sir Ellis Cunliffe, the two names became united.  The present occupant of Suttons, who has been the high sheriff of the county, is the third baronet.  Tawney Common is a rugged-looking place – though now mostly enclosed – with a few scattered cottages.  In the parish is a school-house, erected in 1745, by Jane Luther, who left 5s. to the parish clerk, and £2. 17s. 6d. each to this parish and Kelvedon Hatch, for distribution in bread, out of an estate at Little Warley.  The poor have also the rent of four acres of land, left by an unknown donor; and a rent-charge of £5 left by Thomas Luther, in 1718.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Greensted: The Peoples' History of Essex (1861)

An extract from ‘The People’s History of Essex’ written by D.W. Coller, published in 1861.

The Ongar Hundred is exceedingly pleasant, being finely undulated, and touching at several points upon the forest.  Of the part towards Epping, it was written, a hundred years ago, “It may with propriety be called the garden of Essex, from the pleasing variety of the hills and vales, the fertility of the soil, the goodness of the roads, the neatness of the buildings, and the many additional ornaments it receives from the number of noblemen’s and gentlemen’s seats with which it abounds; insomuch that the traveller cannot pass without being struck by the peculiarity of its beauty, and the variety of noble and pleasing prospects, which in different parts present themselves in this view.

Greensted Hall, the seat of Captain Budworth – To the west of Chipping Ongar, reached by a walk of about a mile through pleasant meadows, and nestling among clumps of trees, as if it still stood in a forest land, is the curious little antique church of Greensted – St Edmund’s shrine.  There is little doubt that this is the identical resting-place of the saint, as the register of the Abbey of St. Edmund says:   “his body was likewise entertained at Aungre, where a wooden chapel erected to his memory remains to the present day.”  Close by is the Hall, commanding prospects over a rich forestal district.  The parish, belonged with Ongar, to Sir Richard Lucy; and subsequently the noble families of Stafford, Bourchier, and others.  The manor, with the remainder of the parish and other property in the neighbourhood, was purchased in the reign of Charles II by Alexander Cleeve, of London, merchant.  Subsequently these estates were subdivided between three of the grand-daughters, one of whom marrying the Rev. Richard Budworth during the last [eighteenth] century, carried a proportion of this parish to her husband; the manor and Hall, however, passing successively through the hands of the Rebotier, Redman, and Ord families.  In 1837 the trustees of the estate of the Rev. Philip Budworth (son of the above Richard Budworth) re-purchased Greensted Hall with the manor, and with one or two small exceptions, the remainder of the parish.  Greensted Hall is now [1861] the seat of Captain Philip John Budworth, son of the last mentioned, who has lately restored the mansion – a large pile of buildings dating from the reign of Elizabeth, but, owing to successive repairs and alterations, possessing no architectural remains of that epoch.  The entrance hall, however, is a noble and spacious one, and contains a fine Scarsellino, brought by Captain Budworth from the Sciana Gallery at Rome, as well as a collection of arms and armour, which was partly made by him in the East.  From the Hall, eastwards, a fine avenue of elm s, of at least a mile in length, runs through the grounds and adjoining fields into the town of Ongar.

The charities for the poor are two rent-charges of 5s. out of the land at Stanford Rivers, left by Robert Petit; and 2s. out of Lee-fields, left by Richard Bourne, in 1660.

Filling the space between that parish [Navestock] and Greensted, a fertile and picturesque district, lies Stanford Rivers, with its straggling village.  There was anciently an extensive park here; and Belhouse was long the seat of a branch of the Petre family.  Sir C. C. Smith and Capel Cure, Esq. are the chief owners of this parish.  The poor have 5s. a year, left by Thomas Petit; an annuity of £2, left by William Green in 1554, has been lost.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Tuesday, 1 November 2011


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

Who Do You Think You Are?
It is remiss of me not to report until now that in March 2011 the BBC ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ magazine featured the county of Essex.  The highlight, on the cover CD, is a complete ‘Kelly’s Directory 1933’.

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

Friday, 28 October 2011

Blackmore: Speller family

Received 2 October 2011

Hello Andrew I am researching the Speller family who lived in around Billericay.  I have noticed that there is a Charles Speller included on the war memorial. There could be a match to the Charles Speller on my family tree but only by name and year of birth match so it is a little tenuous. I am happy to share what I know.

Charles Speller b 1876 was the son of Henry Speller b 1837 Vange(?) d 1895 and his mother was Eliza Speller (Law) b 1838 (Pitsea?). 

He had a number of siblings, Louisa b 1857 Henry T Speller b 1858 Eliza Speller b 1860, Mary Ann Speller b 1865, George Speller b 1866,  Frederick William Speller b 19/01/1867 (my great grandfather) Emma C Speller b 1868 and Rachel M Speller b 1871.

According to the 1891 Census Charles was 15 and was known as Charley. He is described as a general labourer. He was living at 87 Back Lane Great Burstead Billericay

According to the 1901 census Charles was 25 and living with wife Ellen age 22 b 1879 and daughter Fairy age 1 b 1900 at 117 Wyatt Green Blackmore Essex. Charles was a haybinder and agricultural worker.

I haven't found them in the 1911 census yet.  Are there parishes other than Great Burstead that would cover Billericay and its surrounding areas?

Thank you for the job you are doing on the research and for making it so publicly available.  It makes fascinating reading.

kind regards

Graham Speller

Replied 8 October 2011

Dear Graham,

Thank you for your e mail.  Charles Speller is a name the War Memorial Research Project came across, as living in Blackmore at the outbreak of the First World War.  He is on the Electoral Roll in 1914.  Baptism records show three further children.  He is not remembered on the Blackmore War Memorial, which was unveiled in 1920.  Our tribute page to him can be found on

His service details say, erroneously, that he was born in Blackmore.  Your information confirms that he was not born here.

Wyatt(s) Green was a hamlet of Blackmore, now a built up area.  “117” refers to a census entry not address.

I have not checked the 1911 Census for Charles Speller. He may have been living at Blackmore, not Great Burstead near Billericay.

Best wishes

Received 10 October 2011

Andrew thanks very much for your reply and for sharing your information.  I have now found Charles Speller on the 1911 census. The reference is Essex, Blackmore 11 Page 60. The family had four children all living, and he was employed as a haybinder. His wife was Ellen b 1880 and they were married in 1899. They lived in four rooms at Nelson Cottage Blackmore nr Ingatestone

best wishes


Replied  13 October 2011

Good news!  Nelson Cottage is just along the road from the centre of Blackmore village in Ingatestone Road.  Today six people living in four rooms would be overcrowding but then, of course, that was the norm.


Friday, 21 October 2011

A Trilogy of Books: "After Dinner Anecdotes"; "Relatively Speaking"; "Captain's Reflections"

Three new books relating to the Reeve family of Stondon Massey and beyond are now on sale priced £2 each (plus P&P).  Pictured below is part of the display of archive material shown at St Peter & St Paul Church last weekend.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Stondon Massey: Today at St Peter & St Paul Church

Open 10.00am to 4.00pm for annual Gift Day, refreshments, plus ...

Reeve Family Archive

The Reeve family moved to the Stondon Massey Rectory in 1849, and lived in the village for almost a century.  This archive is a generous donation by one of their descendants.  It represents an interesting social history of a well-to-do family of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Please handle these items with care.

1.                   The commonplace book of Captain Edward Reeve (1785-1867).  He wrote this manuscript at The White House, Ongar, in about 1860.  Edward Reeve purchased the Rectory for himself and the advowson for his clergyman son Edward James for £700 in 1849.

2.                   ‘Jottings’ by Edward Henry Lisle Reeve (1858-1936) written in 1881.  He was known as Lisle to his family.
“My father you know is always telling us the same old stories, and then he will turn to me and ask ‘if I remember that’.”

3.                   ‘Plauti Comoediae. Tom. I’.   Lisle was educated at Harrow School.  This book is dated September 1875.

4.                   Lisle was a keen athlete and cyclist during his youth.   The trophy shows success in 1880 in a one-mile and ten-mile race, with a contemporary photograph.  ‘Safety bicycles’ had just been invented, allowing the rider to touch the ground with their feet, and were first catalogued in 1885. 

5.                   Two books belonging to Edward Reeve.  ‘Watts’, a hymn book dated 1815.  Highlighted is the hymn ‘Give to our God immortal praise’.

6.                   ‘Prayer’ dated 1815.  The Book of Common Prayer, which then included prayers for the deliverance of King James I from the Gunpowder Treason, and a form of prayer with fasting in remembrance of the martyrdom of King Charles I.  These remained in the Prayer Book until 1859.  The service of Morning Prayer included a prayer for “our most gracious Sovereign Lord King GEORGE” (George III who had reigned since 1859 – and by 1815 was bonkers) and “our gracious Queen Charlotte, their Royal Highnesses George Prince of Wales, the Princess of Wales, and all the Royal Family” (George Prince of Wales was Regent and later, from 1820 to 1830 King George IV).

7.                   ‘Church Services’.  A Book of Common Prayer inscribed “Elizabeth Jane Reeve. Augst. 22nd 1884. With her father’s love”.  Jane was one of three daughters of Edward James Reeve (1821-1893), then Rector of Stondon Massey.  The book was given on her 25th birthday. The same Morning Prayer records “our most gracious Sovereign Lady, Queen VICTORIA” followed by a prayer for “Albert Edward Prince of Wales, the Princess of Wales and all the Royal Family” (Albert Edward eventually became King Edward VII in 1901.  Queen Victoria’s consort, Albert, had died in 1861).

8.                   ‘Hymns for a Week’ and ‘Concordance’.

9.                   ‘Death Certificate of Edward James Reeve’ and Hymns sung at his funeral at Stondon Massey, August 1893.

10.               ‘British Museum. Reading Room’. Rules, dated 1894, reflecting Lisle’s interest in local history.

11.               ‘Stondon Massey’.  The parish history written by Revd. E H L Reeve (Lisle).

12.               Miscellaneous Papers.

The archive is the generous donation of a great great niece of Edward Henry Lisle Reeve.

Available today from the back of the church are three booklets transcribing extracts from the two commonplace books on display – each booklet is priced £2.00, in aid of church funds.
-          After Dinner Anecdotes
-          Relatively Speaking
-          Captain’s Reflections

Also, the recently published ‘Revd. Edward Henry Lisle Reeve. The Last Gentleman Clergyman of Stondon Massey’

Andrew Smith
15 October 2011

Friday, 14 October 2011

Stondon Massey: Revd. Edward James Reeve

An extract from ‘Jottings’ by EHL Reeve written in 1881 and now available in a booklet entitled ‘After Dinner Anecdotes’.

 “In medio tutissimus ibis” is the Rector’s of Stondons motto.  Imbued with a firm belief in the English Church, he is equally uncompromising to Roman Catholic and Dissenter, courting neither the one nor the other out of fear or favour.

Mr Ely, Rector of Broomfield near the Curacy of Little Waltham, said to him in those early days of his ministry, “Your sentiments are right, but you will never be popular”.

[Edward James Reeve was Curate of Little Waltham, near Chelmsford, Essex, from 1847 to 1849 having previously served as Curate at Ide Hill, near Sevenoaks in Kent, from 1844 to 1846.]

On some points of Church doctrine or discipline my father feels so strongly, that in speaking of them he seems almost inspired to inveigh against those who would make breaches in her walls.  On such occasions he feels as though he would like to be addressing a huge mass of people on some wide plain, and fancies them still pouring in to hear him.  “How many are there?” he supposes to himself to ask, “20000 Sir” is the reply, “and they are still coming up”. “Let them come on”.  And when assembled, he can imagine himself addressing them all, and like Samson, dying at the hour of triumph.

Mr Wyndham Holgate Inspector of Schools, sent by the Government round the Country to inquire into the state of school buildings – whether or no they were adequate to the number of children etc – in due course came to Stondon.  Had the cubic weight of air in the room been deemed insufficient, the Government could have obliged the parish to build another school of proper proportions.  It was however deemed to be sufficient.  My father is in possession of the title deeds of the ground on which the school stands, it being given to the rector by Mr Philip Herman Meyer the Lord of the Manor for use as School property as long as the school should be conducted according to the principles of the Church of England.  Mr Wyndham Holgate endeavoured to persuade my father that he only had to accept the conditions of Government called the “Conscience Clause” (by which children, whose parents objected to the teaching of the English Church, might be instructed in secular learning only) to obtain a Grant from Government, instead of paying the salary of the governess himself.  This was just the proposition to call forth his best energies, and I have it from Mrs Meyer herself who was present at the time, that she never heard such a torrent of eloquence, such pithy and witty sentences; such speedy, such sharp retorts. He had the best of the argument throughout, and his adversary retreated, assuring him that there were only two other such in the kingdom, and that he was a regular old John Bull.  On wishing the Rector good-day, the Inspector said, “You are quite right, Mr Reeve, there is no doubt, in your view of the matter.”

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Stondon Massey: Captain Edward Reeve

An extract from ‘Jottings’ by EHL Reeve written in 1881 and now available in a booklet entitled ‘After Dinner Anecdotes’.

When my father [Revd. Edward James Reeve (1821-1893)] first came to Stondon Massey as Rector [for 44 years from 1849 to 1893], Captain [Edward] Reeve [(1785 – 1867)] lived at the Rectory House at Stondon with him, with my grandmother [Anna Reeve, nee Stutter (1791 – 1862)] and Aunt Mary [Mary Wheatley Reeve (1823 – 1916)]. 

They had lately become possessed of a young donkey which Miss Mary Reeve used to drive about.  One day the animal was not forthcoming, and Captain Reeve with characteristic activity put an advertisement in the paper offering 1£ reward for its safe restoration.  Three or four days passed, and the beast did not appear; at last the coachman had occasion to go to an old cowshed where the main supply of hay was kept, and there to his astonishment was the truant donkey. Evidently it had got in when the man last went to the shed in the evening, and the key had been turned on it.  The donkey had enough to eat, but his good fortune had been somewhat tempered, for he had nothing to drink, and when the door was opened he made immediately for the pond, and began to drink with an energy which bade fair to prove fatal.  Captn. Reeve, though glad to recover his lost property, was still annoyed to think of the disturbance which his advertisement had created, and the more so that friends would from time to time gently chaff him upon the subject.

Mrs Edward Reeve [the Captain’s wife] was the eldest daughter of Mr James Stutter of Higham Hall [Suffolk].  She was a great invalid in her later years, and during her residence at Stondon seldom was seen outside the house.  The Captn. would vainly try to entice her out declaring that the sun was shining brightly, but even if he elicited a promise from her to try its charms he would return a few moments later only to find her putting on her boots – the lacing of which was a work of time.  When a new domestic was wanted, great troops of applicants would appear at the window to be called in one by one, and the Capt. would be outside and wink significantly if he saw one approaching whom he thought would suit!  On one occasion Mrs Reeve in questioning one more likely than the rest, asked her if she had been confirmed, and received a somewhat amusing reply, that she “had not yet, but that she was good at her needle”. 

Mrs Reeve was of silent habits, and particularly reticent at meals, when, if she chanced to make a remark which caused merriment to the party, she would merely smile and say “I am glad you are amused”.

If the said party assembled grumbled at the fare provided for them, but the good lady afterwards found devouring the same, and even applying for a second helping, she would sarcastically say, “You seem to eat it, though”.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Stondon Massey: Revd. Thomas Hubbard

An extract from ‘Jottings’ by EHL Reeve written in 1881 and now available in a booklet entitled ‘After Dinner Anecdotes’.

The rector of Stondon Massey who succeeded Mr Oldham and immediately preceded my father, was the Revd Thos Hubbard [rector, 1841- 1849] – a brother of John Gellibrand Hubbard Esquire of the Privy Council.  He only lived about seven or eight years at Stondon, his wife voting the place dull. 

He was rather unfortunate, it would seem, in his endeavours to exact the outward forms of respect from the juvenile proportion of the population.  On one occasion he met a boy who did not make his obeisance to the rector of the parish, and who, on being reprimanded, replied, “I keeps my bows for Mr Page” (one of the principal farmers). 

On another occasion Mr Hubbard met a boy carrying a heavy basket on his head, and seeing his predicament as he supposed, kindly said, “You need not touch your hat to me today my boy”. “I wasn’t a-going to” replied the ungrateful juvenile.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Stondon Massey: Revd. John Oldham

An extract from ‘Jottings’ by EHL Reeve written in 1881 and now available in a booklet entitled ‘After Dinner Anecdotes’.

Mr Oldham, sometime rector of the parish of Stondon Massey [1791 – 1841] was a man reverenced far and wide for his great abilities.  He had been brought up to the Law before taking Orders and his proficiency in this branch of learning raised him in the eyes of his parishioners and neighbours.  Veterans of the village can recollect fours-in-hand driving up to his rectory and carrying off legal advice from this clerical lawyer.

Mr Oldham built the present rectory house in a style possibly of his own peculiar.  Certainly if not his own – it is peculiar; The rector – so the story goes – was one day inspecting his laurel bushes by the front gate when some passers by made rather rude remarks upon the architecture of the buildings observing finally that “the man who built that house ought to be hanged”.  “But he’s not hanged yet” said the old gentleman, starting up from his place of concealment.  Imagine the traveller’s horror!

Mr Oldham was strict and stern, but kind-hearted and somewhat eccentric it would seem. I have from Mr Noble a tradesman of Ongar that the Rev. gentleman was very fond of snuff and to save trouble to him domestics had a tub of water in his study wherein a number of handkerchiefs could be always soaking and washing in numbers. “We would have them to dry before his fire!”

This same Mr Oldham erected a tomb for himself in Stondon churchyard and had the inscription relating to himself placed upon it in his lifetime, only the date of his decease remaining for his relatives to supply.  Now and again he would visit the spot, inviting his friends to come with him, and see “his house”.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Stondon Massey: Revd. Thomas Smith

An extract from ‘Jottings’ by EHL Reeve written in 1881 and now available in a booklet entitled ‘After Dinner Anecdotes’.

Revd. Thos. Smith [Rector] of Stondon [1735 – 1781] on one occasion was rolling the gravel in front of his house with his gardener, when suddenly the Church Bells began to ring.  “Why!”, said the Rector, “what are they thinking of now?”  “Well that’s a good ‘un”, replied the man, “I think you ought to know”.  (It was Sunday – Ed.)

Friday, 7 October 2011

Stondon Massey: After Dinner Anecdotes

An introduction to a new booklet now available, price £2, from Stondon Massey Church.

In 1881 Edward Henry Lisle Reeve (known as Lisle to his family) had just completed his University studies to become a Minister of Religion in the Church of England.  He was 23 years of age, born into a well-to-do family, whose father was Rector of Stondon Massey.  Lisle became the parish’s rector in 1893.  His late grandfather, Edward Reeve (known in the family as “the Captain”), had served in the West Suffolk Militia.  Having then been a gentleman farmer in Dedham, in 1849 he purchased the Rectory and advowson of Stondon moving into retirement and appointing his son as the incumbent.

The following sequence of posts is edited from a manuscript in Lisle’s hand entitled ‘Jottings’ dated 1881, and relates specifically to Stondon Massey.  In Lisle’s words:

“My father you know is always telling us the same old stories, and then he will turn to me and ask ‘if I remember that’.

“Well, I should say you have no doubts how to answer that question.  If he were to ask you whether you had forgotten it, it might create a difficulty.

“Most of these little heirlooms we are indebted to the Captain who took a burning interest in all that related to his ancestors”.

‘Jottings’ is a family book which came into my possession via a relative of the Reeve family.  It casts light on the ordinary lives of the privileged classes in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.  In short, it is a fascinating social history.

Thursday, 6 October 2011


Welcome to this month’s round-up of local history and heritage in and around Blackmore, Essex.  It’s little later than usual owing to the marvellous October heatwave which forced me away from the computer and out in the garden.

Changes in Ongar
A large building, which initially looked like a multi storey car park, is being built on the site of the former Ongar War Memorial Hospital.  The Ongar Health Centre will be completed soon with the anticipation that men from the Ongar district who fell in the First World War will be remembered with their names engraved on glass.  Meanwhile in the High Street itself HSBC bank closed its doors for the last time on 30 September 2011.  The media say it is another blow to the town which lost its connection to the Central Line back in 1994.
Under construction. Ongar Health Centre

Pubs For Sale
Two pubs in close proximity to one another are up for sale.  Kings Brasserie, formerly The Wheatsheaf, in Nine Ashes, High Ongar parish has recently gone on the market having been shut throughout the summer.  It has been trading under its new name for only about eighteen months.  The Bull, Blackmore, which has been closed for at least a year is also for sale. It is difficult to tell the fate of these pubs, and whether they will open again as going concerns.  Meanwhile in Blackmore End, near Wethersfield, the former pub bearing the same name, the Bull, has also closed and a controversial application has been made for conversion into a house.  Having two pubs in the county called The Bull, one at Blackmore and the other at Blackmore End several miles away, caused great confusion.  Having visited them both a few years ago the former landlords both told me how occasionally a small party turned up expecting their booking for Sunday lunch only to find they had rung the wrong establishment.  It’s sad also to note that the Dog and Partridge (many years ago called The Swan) in Kelvedon Hatch has also closed.
Kings Brasserie (The Wheatsheaf), King Street, High Ongar

Nine Ashes Farm, High Ongar
A planning application has been made to demolish derelict cattle sheds at Nine Ashes Farm and for a number of houses to be erected.  Until twenty years ago the farm kept cows for milking. Now the sight of a cow or sheep is extraordinarily rare in this part of the county.  When it comes to redundant buildings the whole question of preservation, or conservation or demolition has to be addressed.
Disused dairy farm barns, Nine Ashes Farm, High Ongar

Moreton Hanger
A former hanger from the North Weald airfield in the centre of Moreton village has finally been removed and the site to be allocated for house-building.  The fate of the rather tatty wooden structure is unknown but I learned a while ago that North Weald airfield as well as a new First World War museum on the site of an airfield at Stow Maries near Maldon was interested.  I hope that it has found a home.
Airfield Hanger (now demolished) at Moreton (photo taken 2007)

Treasures of the Essex Record Office
The Essex Record Office produces every year a series of short courses on a variety of topics, ranging from understanding parish registers, and house history through to understanding maps.  On 4 October I attended an afternoon session entitled ‘Treasures of the Essex Record Office’ in which the archivist had laid out around twenty documents which she thought were special.  She gave a short introductory talk on each item then allowed those attending time to view them.  Of course any selection like this has to be somewhat subjective, and there is no doubt that another member of staff would choose a different selection of twenty.  On display before our eyes was the oldest record held by the archive, dated 962; a household record of the Petre family; an original Parish Register commencing 1538; a plan of Epping workhouse; photographs by Spalding of Chelmsford; a record of aliens in the First World War; and, would you believe it, letters written to Revd Edward Henry Lisle Reeve by men of the parish serving on the Front during the First World War.  I have seen these whilst researching Reeve’s biography.

Gift Day at Stondon Massey
A display of books, letters and manuscripts of the Reeve family will be available to view for the first time in Stondon Massey on Saturday 15th October.   The congregation of St Peter and St Paul Church, Stondon Massey have their Gift Day with the building open to visitors between 10.00am and 4.00pm.  Refreshments will be available.  Revd. Edward Henry Lisle Reeve died 75 years ago this year and was Rector of Stondon Massey from 1893 to 1935, succeeding his father, Edward James, who was Rector for 44 years from 1849.  The material was a generous gift of a distant descendent.  Among them are two commonplace books, one by Edward Reeve (1785 – 1867) written towards the end of his life at Ongar, and the other ‘Jottings’ (dating from 1881) by his grandson Edward Henry Lisle Reeve.  A trilogy of booklets will be available to coincide with the exhibition, entitled ‘After Dinner Anecdotes’, ‘Relatively Speaking’ and ‘Captain’s Reflections’, each priced £2.00 each and sold in aid of church funds.

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