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.

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