The Foxearth and District Local History Society

The Hysterical Hystorian

For occasional articles, snippets and announcements by the Resident Historians. (Andrew Clarke and GH) These articles are presented in date order, but if you explore the back-catalogue, you may find much of interest. Historical information doesn't really go out of date! Any member of the F&DLHS may add an entry or make a comment to an existing entry once they have got their userID and password from the Webmaster.

If you'd like to publish any interesting material about the history of East Anglia on the site, then please send an email to the Resident Historians at and we'll add it.

Family Historians have their own area on the site, so look there if your main interest is in tracing your family history.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

The Fairies of Stowmarket

The following account of supernatural happening in the Stowmarket area were published in the East Anglian Miscellany 1906 by Chas. Smith, Great Bealings.

"The old ‘Parish Clerk’ used to say the fairies frequented several houses in Tavern Street about 80 years since. They never appeared as long as anyone was about. People used to lie hid to see them, and some have seen them. Once in particular, by a wood-stack, up near the brick-yard, there was a large company of them, dancing, singing, and playing music together. They wore very small people, quite little creatures, and very merry. But as soon as they saw anybody they all vanished away. In the houses after they had fled, on going upstairs sparkes of fire as bright as stars used to appear under the feet of persons who disturbed them. 
‘‘The house in which A. W. now lives, was the scene of fairy visits and officiousness. A man lived there, who was visited constantly by a fairy. They used his cottage for their meetings. They cannot abide dirt or slovenliness, they kept it tidy and clean, they cut and brought faggots for the good man, and filled his oven with dry wood every night. They also left a shilling for him under the leg of a chair. 
“And a fairy often came to him and warned him not to tell anyone of it, for if he did the shillings, wood, and fairies would never come to him again. Unluckily for him he did tell his good luck, and then his little friends were never seen by him more. The fairy wore yellow satin shoes, was clothed with a green long coat, girt about by a golden belt, and had sandy hair and complexion. A woman had a child changed, and one, a poor thing, left in its place, but she was very kind to it, and every morning on getting up she found a small piece of money in her pocket. 
"Neighbour S is a brother of old B, the sexton. He died at 82. She is now near 80. Her father was a leather breeches maker, and her mother having had a baby was lying asleep in bed, and the infant by her side. She woke in the night, it was dimmish light, and missed the babe. Uttering an exclamation of fear, lest the Fairies should have taken the child, she jumped out of bed, and there sure enough a number of the little sandy things had got the baby at the foot of the bed, and were undressing it. They fled away through a hole in the floor, laughing as if they shrieked, and snatching up her child, on examination she found that they had laid all the pins head to head as they took them out of the dress. For months afterwards she always slept with the child between herself and husband, and used carefully to pin it by its bedclothes to the pillow and sheets that it might not be snatched hastily away. This happened in the old house which stood where the new one now stands on the south side of the Vicarage gate.
In the parish of Onehouse, a man was ploughing in a field, a Fairy quite small and sandy-coloured came to him and asked him to mend his peel (a flat iron with a handle to take bread out of an oven), and that, if he did, he should have a hot cake. The ploughman soon put a new handle in it, and soon after a smoking hot cake made its appearance in the furrows near him, which he ate with infinite relish.” 
A Fairy man came to a woman in the parish, and asked her to attend his wife at her lying in, she did so, and went to fairy land, and afterwards came home none the worse for her trip. But one Thursday at the market in Stowe, she saw the Fairy man in a butcher’s shop, helping himself to some beef. On this she goes up and spoke to him. Whereupon, much surprised, he bid her say nothing about it, and inquires with which eye she could see him, for when in fairyland he had rubbed one of her eves with some ointment, on pointing to the gifted eye, he blew into it, and from that time she could never see a Fairy again. 
Stowmarkct, 1842.—S, living for 30 years at tho cottages in the hop ground on the Bury road, coming home one night 20 years since, in the meadow now a hop ground, not far from three ashen trees, in very bright moonlight saw the Fairies. There might be a dozen of them, the biggest about three feet high, and small ones like dolls. Their dresses sparkled as if with spangles like the girls at shows at Stowe fair, they were moving round hand in hand in a ring, no noise from them. They seemed light and shadowy, not like solid bodies. 
"1 passed on, saying, 'the Lord have mercy on me', but them must be the Fairies, and being alone then on the path over the held could see them as plain as 1 do you. I looked after them when I got over the style, and they were there, just tho same moving round and round. I ran home, and called three women to come back with me and see them, but when we got to the place they were all gone. I could not make out any particular things about their faces. I might be 40 yards from them, and I did not like to stop and stare at them."

My informant firmly believes in their existence, and wonders how it is that of late years no such 
things have been seen.

Monday, March 20, 2017

The two Road bridges of Pentlow

There has long been a road bridge at Cavendish. The only problem has been in working out where. In fact, the main coaching route south has varied a great deal over the years between two river crossings. The first was at Paddock Mill, and the second at Pentlow Hall. 

The siting of river crossings is important. The Stour between Haverhill and Long Melford represents the Essex-Suffolk border, and the edge of East Anglia. It can generally be waded in summer, but can be very different in a rainy spell, especially in the winter, and there are records of deaths when attempting to travel via the ford between Pentlow Mill and Pentlow Hall. 

The first depiction of the river bridge at Pentlow is on Spede’s map of 1575. There are three crossings shown: at Clare, Pentlow and Sudbury. The Pentlow crossing seems to be of some importance, ranked as it was alongside the bridges of Clare and Sudbury. At the time that this map was made, Cavendish was already important as a coaching stop. There were coaching inns and a prominent pond on the edge of the road for horses, and for moistening the wheels of the coaches and carts. The Cambridge route was important, but the route south to Castle Hedingham was favoured. 

These bridges are repeated in other later maps, but not in Van Den Deere’s map of 1603 

... r William Morgan’s “Essex Actually Surveyed” of 1678.

None of the maps at this stage tell us anything about the roads used. The first accurate road map I know of is that of 1724. 

This shows the itinerary of the route south to Castle Hedingham and Halsted, and thence by the old roman road to Braintree and London. The alternative route was via Clare. The itinerary was probably copied onto the map from a printed itinerary for it is careful in marking the road junctions. You can identify these road junctions on the modern map and they are surprisingly accurate. Some parts of this route are now very narrow lanes. The bridge crossings correspond to Spede’s map, 150 years previous.

The road via Paddock Mill seems, at this time, to be the only one, though the bridge at Pentlow Hall is marked. The halls, such as Bower Hall,  that are marked on the map are there not just because they are splendid, but because they are important guides for the traveller to make sure he is still on the right road. 

J Carey’s 1794 road map shows clearly that there was no route over the Pentlow Bridge and the main bridge was at Paddock Mill.

We can see this also on the first detailed map of the area done by Chapman and Andre in 1777…
This confirms the accuracy of the sketch map done of Cavendish in 1793, which gives detail of the two bridges. The main one at Paddock Mill … 

... where it shows clearly that the heavy carts had to run through the river for several yards before emerging on the other bank. At this time, the bridge is definitely narrowed but it is in a different place to the modern footbridge. 

The other bridge at Pentlow is clearly shown on the map too.

A 1794 map shows that the Paddock Mill bridge was the only through route in use at the time. It would seem that the bridge to Pentlow wasn’t usable at this time.

Curiously, The first Ordnance Survey map of 1790 shows no bridge at what it wrongly calls ‘Puddock mill’.  


Hodgkisson’s  map, done just ten years earlier, shows the bridge, though. 


A map of 1794 shows only the Paddock Mill bridge. 


Carey’s 1840 map shows both routes in use, with the Paddock Mill Bridge clearly dominant.

This is confirmed by Pigot’s 1840 map. 

What does all this tell us? Firstly, you should never trust a map. Even contemporary maps can tell a contradictory story. However, we can conclude that the Paddock Mill river crossing was once an important crossing way that rivalled the great iron bridge at Clare and Ballingdon Bridge. Pentlow Bridge, on the other hand, didn’t feature in many people's mind as a good place to cross the river until the present great brick bridge was built in 1880. It is hard nowadays to visit Paddock Mill (now called Cavendish mill since the days when it was a restaurant) and in its peaceful quiet surroundings, to imaging the times when coaches dared to use the old wooden bridge to get to Essex.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

We've actually been very busy!

I was talking to someone about this site the other day and they happened to say that there was not much going on with it recently. I was a bit puzzled. I'd just been pestering our Internet service provider for more disk space as we'd put on so much new content that it had blown our allowance.  We had just finished putting up the large collection of photographs of Borley Rectory we'd been given, including photos of the model that was built for a television program.
We'd been catching up with a whole lot of photographic tasks after the mammoth project of  putting the Sudbury Photographs on the site, and the epic task of preparing the even larger collection of  350 photographs of old Bures. We'd also added to the Cavendish photos after having got hold of some really good photographs of Cavendish station. Also done recently was the addition of a whole collection of maps of Essex, Suffolk and the local area, after a donation of several old maps by a retired farmer.
I suspect that we now have one of the largest photographic collections of postcards of local views on the site that can be found in East Anglia.
There is plenty more work to do.
After Tom Hastie's death, we are still looking through his archive, kindly donated by the Hastie family. There are a lot of photographs to restore and scan.
Over time, we will be converting our entire collection of photographs to the new format. It is viewable on any device and uses the latest HTML5/CSS to fit itself to the page. Sadly it needs a good internet collection, but I know you have that, don't you?
So anyone else who thinks we've not done much recently can check those links first! In the meantime, we still have a lot of large glass plates with views of Sudbury that haven't been seen for well over a half century. We have done a few, very laboriously, using a scanner, but long for a better way. Any ideas?

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Questions I Get Asked about Harry Price and Borley Rectory

These questions have all been asked of me over the years by journalists researching Harry Price and the Borley Rectory story. I have been interested in this story for over fifty years and have a large collection of photographs, interviews,  books and documents collected over time about the case. I am a local historian for Borley.
For the details of all the answers I give to these questions, see my series of articles 'The Bones of Borley


'How would you sum up Harry Price? Three words to describe him?'

An untrustworthy cynical journalist.

'The 1920s seemed to be a great age for mediumship? Why do you think that was?'

There was huge public interest in séances and mediums, The shock of the scale of the slaughter of the first War, the awful personal losses suffered, the dwindling faith in the traditional teachings of the church; The rise in interest in mysticism. Death was in the zeitgeist. Until Harry Price’s pioneering work, few people were aware of how easy it was to fake evidence of the afterlife.

'How did he become the most famous psychic researcher in Britain?'

He wasn’t a psychic researcher in the modern sense, but he made his name as an investigative journalist who specialised in debunking the worst excesses of mediums. He professed to be a scientist but had no training and none of the scientific mindset. This was a shame as the scientific discipline is there to protect the scientist as well as the public. He was, however, an expert photographer and conjurer: these skills were turned to great use in investigating mediums.

'What personal qualities did he bring to psychic research?'

He had terrific energy, and one of the best writing styles ever to have been used to document psychic phenomena. He was a great showman. His physical presence oozed charisma, dignity and integrity. He was not a man one would wish to cross, and retained few lasting friends.


'What do you think made Borley Rectory the most haunted house in England?'

It was inspired journalism, together with Harry Price's own conjuring skills,  brought to bear on a coincidental combination of unconnected events. Once the house got its reputation, everything that happened was attributed to ghosts.

'How did the Borley story come to the attention of the Daily Mirror in 1929?'

Rev Guy Eric Smith, the rector, asked the Daily Mirror for the address of the Society for Psychical Research, so that they could investigate the stories he’d heard from the sisters of the previous incumbent.

'How did Harry Price get involved in the 1929 Daily Mirror investigation?'

The News Editor of the paper called him in. Almost certainly he was employed by the Daily Mirror to ginger-up the story. After he was caught out faking some of the events, he subsequently lost interest in the case, except to refer to it flippantly, or to accuse the maid of faking the phenomena.

'What made Harry Price return to Borley Rectory when the Foysters were in residence?'

He was persuaded to visit once again by Ethel Bull, the sister of the previous incumbent, who visited him in London. She showed him Lionel Foyster’s ‘memorandum’ of events. Ethel wanted to hold a seance to cast doubt on her late brother's will that left nothing to her.

'Can you talk about Harry Price’s assessment at that time that Marianne Foyster was responsible for much of the phenomena?'

Price informed Lionel and Marianne that Marianne was responsible for the phenomena. He was not the first to do this, as three other investigations had already reached the same conclusion. Price and Goldney reached their firm conclusion after a single evening and did not budge from it subsequently

'What was Marianne Foyster’s attitude to Harry Price and the subsequent haunted status of Borley Rectory?'

She loathed and distrusted Harry Price and resented Harry Price’s accusation that she was entirely responsible for the haunting. She accused Harry Price of stealing Lionel Foyster’s manuscript to the account of his haunting.

'What do you think made Harry Price believe that Borley Rectory was worth investigating in 1937?'

He was lent the draft of Lionel Foyster’s writings that gave a full account of what the Foysters had experienced. He recognised it as literary gold dust. Ethel Bull asked the Church commissioners to offer the Rectory to him for sale, but he agreed to rent it instead.

'Can you describe how Harry Price set about his own 1937 investigation?'

He hardly ever turned up at all. The investigations were done by others; mainly Sidney Glanville and Kerr-Pearce., and a whole host of untrained but enthusiastic volunteers. Curiously, other more experienced psychic researchers volunteered to investigate but were turned down by Price.

'What do make of subsequent allegations that Harry Price created rather than discovered Borley Rectory?'

Initially, Harry Price was amused by the Borley Rectory affair but had no real interest in it because he’d seen it for what it was, and had even faked incidents himself to oblige the Daily Mirror. Harry Price was subsequently  moulded and changed by the events at Borley Rectory, and particularly the events of the Foyster Incumbency. Towards the end he moved from his stance of complete cynicism to the suspicion that there might be something in it.

'What do you make of the accusations of fraud against Harry Price by people like Charles Sutton?'

He was not the only one to suspect Harry Price of chicanery. One has to include Mrs Smith, the rector’s wife, Mary Pearson the maid, Mr Tatum, the maid’s boyfriend, Douglas Home, the psychic investigator, and Marianne Foyster.
Charles Sutton’s testimony was examined over many years, and is completely convincing. He never retracted what he’d originally said He was a friend of Price and was one of the journalists that specialised in reporting Price’s antics in the press. He knew him well!
Mr Jackson, who was the man who actually dug out the bones that were subsequently attributed to the Nun, was convinced that Harry Price had switched Pigs bones for human bones.
Harry Price’s technique was to create phenomena himself, and then record other people’s reactions to the phenomena in a straightforward way, ‘forgetting’ to add that he’d done it in the first place. He never ever told an direct untruth in his books.

'How was the report of Hall, Goldney and Dingwall received in the SPR?'

This book was a huge effort. It was comprehensive and left Price's reputation in great doubt. Those who wanted desperately to believe that Borley Rectory was, at last, proof of the persistence of the spirit after death were obviously horrified and angry. The committee of the SPR, and Sutton in particular, had always been alarmed by Harry Price’s antics from the moment the story first broke in 1929, and were utterly convinced in Price’s manipulation of the truth. Many ordinary members were greatly angered by the attack on Harry Price. A whole system of faith had built up around the assumption that the books were gospel truth. It split the society.

'Why do you think so many people have tried to tarnish the work of Harry Price’s critics, particularly the work of Trevor Hall?'

Because the criticisms were unassailable, they did the next best thing and took the battle ‘ad hominem’. Trevor Hall was a determined and pugnacious Yorkshire man and didn’t bow to that sort of pressure, but the attacks were unpleasant and untrue. There are, even today, some who accuse Trevor of stealing a book out of Harry Prices’ collection (he didn’t)  and argue that, in consequence, the entire report by report of Hall, Goldney and Dingwall should be ignored as untrustworthy. Trevor and I became friends, and I was proud to have known him. 

'What do you think of the continuing perception of Borley as a haunted place?'

It is the victory of wishful thinking over the scientific method and analytical thought. Anyone who argues against this perception of Borley as a haunted place is made to feel one is unkindly attacking a system of beliefs. The closer you look at the evidence in a dispassionate and scientific way, the more flimsy  it becomes.

'How has the reputation for hauntings affected Borley?'

The residents would like their village back please. There never was any haunting there, and none of the residents who lived nearby in the parish in the past century have witnessed anything odd or bizarre beyond the host of  tourists 
Borley has suffered much, especially during Halloween each year, and benefited nothing.
Graves dug up, headstones smashed, endless break-ins to the church; tourists wandering about the churchyard at all hours. People forget that it is a sacred place rather than a ghost-hunters theme park.


'How would you sum up Harry Price as a psychic researcher?'

He was a great journalist, a tireless worker, a charismatic man, but not a scientist. Once he felt he was certain of the truth he felt he was justified in gingering-up the evidence. Even famous scientists have fallen from grace for the same crime. The nearest parallel I can think of is Sir Cyril Burt, the educational Psychologist, trying to prove the inheritance of personality and ability.

For a while, he achieved greatness in exposing the tricks of the spiritualists and mediums. Sadly, something awful happened to Harry Price in late middle age that led him to cut corners. It got worse as time went on so that even his supporters (e.g. Edwin Whitehouse) noted that he had lost his critical faculties. It was as if some intuition of his impending death caused him to want to believe in the permanence of the spirit and his antics in faking phenomena and evidence seemed to be self-deluding as much as financial gain. He mistook firm belief for knowledge of the truth

'What has been his lasting effect on the world of psychic research?'

Although he did great service in debunking the fraudulent mediums, his later work in attempting to contact Mars, turn a goat into a young man, and in investigating Gef the talking mongoose were all examples of his ludicrous attention-seeking behaviour, and the whole field of psychic research was tainted permanently by association with it. 

The Harry Price Library is an enduring legacy. One hopes that it will be his chief memorial. 

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Origin of the Round Tower of Pentlow Church

Claude Morley, who published an interesting account of East Anglian Round Towers in the Journal of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and History Volume XVIII Part 2 (1923) added a footnote that illustrates the fact that the locals in the 1860s had a sense of humour. He quotes an account from East Anglian Notes and Queries 1868, p. 310. When asked about the origin of Pentlow's round tower by an antiquarian, this 'local' "explained to us that, before the flood, it had been used as a well ; and, when the inhabitants of the new generation who resided on that spot were looking for a place to build a church, .they selected this site because the old well would do for a steeple ; and therefore they built the church to it " The joke was repeated deadpan in the resulting article.

The round towers of East Anglia and of Ireland were probably originally bell towers, and mostly date back to Saxon times. There is evidence that some were enlarged in stages from an elaborate west porch. Bells were used for passing lay messages as well as summoning the faithful and punctuating the Liturgy. The original bells were much smaller than the current enormous castings seen in churches. Pentlow Church Tower is typical of the East Anglian type, but built in one stage. It dates from the restoration work of the 14th century. It is very archaic for its date and so may represent a rebuild of an original. This, however cannot be in the same location because the present tower covers and conceals a very splendid early-Norman West Door. When built, the bell floor was reached by a doorway, placed high up and accessed from the nave.  One can only guess at the form of the ladder that would be required to access the bell-floor, but there is evidence that ladders were there to access these doors, and that these were even used  in the more dramatic ceremonies to represent the ascent to heaven.

Bell towers were generally sited near to the hall of the local 'Lord' (Thegn) so that they could be easily manned, and defended,  when necessary to ring the bells. (The Celts used a yodeling call to transmit messages but we just don't know if this was ever used in post-roman Britain). They were certainly important for messages.  Among the laws passed by King Aethelstan in the year 937 was one which necessitated the building of a bell-tower on the estate of a thegn. At times of unrest, they would have provided very useful civil warnings, much like the sirens of WW2. As a defense, a tower is, by itself, pretty useless. There are accounts where the Irish tried to use them as a refuge against the Viking invasions, and the Vikings, it is recorded,  set fire to them (they had wooden doors and stairways) and being uncannily like industrial chimneys, the burned very well.)

Friday, February 21, 2014

Roman Finds at Rodbridge, near Long Melford. in 1951

(from the  proceedings of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and History Volume XXVI, part 1 1952)
Following notice that animal bones had been found in a West Suffolk County Council disused gravel pit at Rodbridge, near Long Melford (Nat. Grid. 00/856435), Miss E. M. Backhouse, of Sudbury, in August 1951 recovered from the same spot shards of Roman pottery.

On 29 September a member of this Society, who is interested in field work, undertook a planned investigation and unearthed, between that date and 21 October, the following items:—a Roman bronze ligula or spatula, about four inches long; a steelyard hook; a nail; two shards of Samian ware; approx. 50 shards of Castor ware; approx. 700 shards, some decorated but the majority small and broken, of Roman grey ware, including rims and bases; approx. 25 shards of Anglo-Saxon coarse ware; samples of charcoal and discoloured flints.

The gravel pits at Rodbridge (there are others on the right-hand side of the Borley road) supplied material for Acton Aerodrome, near Sudbury, in World War II. As far as can be ascertained, nothing of archaeological interest was ever reported, yet evidence of what are believed to be hut floors or refuse pits must have
been noticed when the deep incisions were made in the ground. The site of the pit was originally arable land; the river Stour flows about 200 yards from the spot. The finds are at present in
my possession.

G. R. Elliott.

Since this note was written, the gravel pit has been bulldozed by the West Suffolk County Council, but it is hoped that an arrangement will be made whereby any future excavations here will be carried out under the auspices of the Institute, subject to the agreement of the tenant and to certain conditions regarding the
ownership and disposal of any finds. This is, of course, assuming that the bull-dozer has not done irreparable damage to the site.

Iron Age Pottery Vessel found at the Stour at Cavendish in 1952.

(from the proceedings of the Suffolk Institute Archaeology 1952)
An angler of 34 years experience, Mr. William Shaw, of 4 Broadway, Glemsford, Suffolk, while
fishing for roach in the River Stour (Nat. Grid. 795E454N) in front of Cavendish Hall, the home of the owner of  the land, Mrs. A. Brocklcbank,  landed with a collection of rubbish, what was identified on January 19th, 1953, by Mr. M. R. Hull, curator of the Castle Museum, Colchester, as either a native Iron Age or ancient British pottery vessel (circa b.c. 50—a.d. 50) of the Cunobulum dynasty.

The perfectly preserved vessel, which is about 5 inches in diameter and approx. 4J inches high, is slate grey in colour and there are two parallel incisions, extending round the pot, between the lip and belly. Mrs. Brocklebank, who has custody of the relic, was advised by the museum not to clean the chalk deposit off it. 

Mr. Shaw told me that the vessel had been lying in his shed from August, 1952, to January, 1953, when he took the pot to Mrs.Brocklcbank, who realised at once that it was of considerable antiquity. The river was ' quite shallow' at the time of the discovery- ; the river bottom shows traces of chalk, which probably
accounts for the chalk encrusted pot.

The discovery of this ancient vessel is of added interest: as far as can be ascertained, it is the only recorded find in the village apart from the Late Bronze Age encrusted urn, found in the spring of 1843, in the vicinity of Mr. Shaw's ' catch '. This urn, which contained the burial of a cremated child {skull, bone fragments,
and teeth sockets), was found inverted over the ashes'. It was presented in 1851, by the then Rector of Cavendish (The Rev.Thomas Castley), to the old Sudbury Museum but the whereabouts of the urn to-day is not known. Apparently a special frame was made for it and other precautions taken to preserve the relic.

W. W. Hodson, writing in a local guide book published in 1870, said that the Museum, which was then housed in a room at the Lecture Hall, North Street,' of late years has been much neglected'. It seems likely that the urn may have been mislaid during that period. It was described at the 1852 Annual Meeting of the old Bury and West Suffolk Archaeological Institute, by Mr. Castley, who states that the urn was found ' half way between the pool in the middle of Parson's Piece and the hedge on the South, not many
rods from the North bank of the River Stour' (Prot, Suff. Inst. Arch., vol. I, p. 313).

Friday, October 18, 2013

Thomas Baskerville's Tour through East Anglia in 1662

The following is a description of an East Anglian journey by Thomas Baskerville. in 1662, mainly through the county of Essex. Starting from London, he proceeds via Chelmsford and Colchester to Sudbury, and passing through the south-west corner of Suffolk he arrives at Cambridge.

"The road from London to Colchester leads through Stepney, the greatest parish in England for multitude of people. Radcliff Highway, Wapping, and most of the houses below the Tower did in 1661 belong unto it. ’Tis something more than a mile from London unto it. Next to this, a mile and half further on the road is Bow and Stratford, both big enough to keep markets were it not within seven miles of London. A navigable river from Ware in Hertfordshire (the Lea) here, streaming in several branches, separates these towns as I suppose, and is the western bounds of Essex, but at Blackwall uniting again, there commixing with the Thame. Having cleared yourself of those towns, in your march on the left-hand you shall discover Sir William Hicks, his house in a flourishing grove of trees (Ruckholt). and then IIford, 3 miles distant from Stratford, which at spring tides is visited by the water from Thames. - Romford, a great market town for corn and cattle two days in a week, that for cattle one day. and corn another, to which the butchers and mealmen of London do resort. It hath one church handsomely beautified within.Ingatestone, a sweet town on rising ground, hath a handsome church, where the family of the Peters have an aisle for the burial of their dead, and in it some fair momiments. The Lady Petre now living is a widow, having a good report among her neighbours for charitable works. Adjoining to the churchyard they have a fair bowling-green, frequented by tho gentry hereabouts. In the next five miles' march you shall pass through Margaretts End (Margaretting) to Wilford (Widford), where upon the road I found growing camomile, organy, and orpines. Chansford (Chelmsford), the shire town of Essex, is about the bigness of Reading, watered with a fine river and adorned with a large church in which do lie entombed the Lord Thomas Mildmay and his Lady, who had issue seven sons and eight daughters, as is to be seen by their effigies on a fair monument.

About this town, as in many parts of Essex, they have large hopyards, in which at the time of gathering they employ many women for 6d. a day to pick and separate them. Those that are got in green, when they are ripe, they say are the best, the brown they sort by themselves, being lower prized, but I have found by experience to gather them in too green is not so good, for unless they be glutinous and stick to tho gatherer's fingers they are not come to their full virtue and ripeness. As soon as they have cleansed them from leaves and stems -they set them to dry on kilns, for if they neglect them three or four days 'twill discolour them; in 12 hours' time may be dried two kilns, but great care must be taken lest they burn. When they are dried it is good to lot them lie a week or more in the heap to air, for if they are put in bags to soon thev are apt to grow mouldy.

“Essex for the generality is a level and enclosed country, not so well planted with fruit trees as Kent, but in other respects as neatly husbanded. Out of this country and Suffolk they drive, like flocks of sheep, to London great legget (?) of turkeys.

“In Essex is a market town called Halstead, built on the declivity of a hill, and in the bottom of a river here Sir Samuel Trayn hath a fair house, ann. 1662. Five miles further in the road to London is another large market town called Braintree, on the top of a low hill, having adjoining to it another handsome town called Bockhen (Bocking), and by that a river. Between this town and Chelmsford, in the road formerly described, is accounted 10 miles.

“But let us pass forward to Springfield, by which in the road you shall have a view of that stately mansion, New Hall, which owned the Duke of Buckingham for lord in ’62. From the highway it hath a stately walk or riding to the house, set on both sides in exact order double rows of lime and ' hornbin ’ trees at such distance that at the end of this flourishing walk you may discover the front of the Duke’s magnificent palace, which with desires to have further satiated my greedy gazing eyes I left behind, and came to Boorham, where one Mr. Cammock hath a neat house and garden finely planted with outlandish trees, whose ever verdant tops overlook the vale, adding delight to travellers that pass that way.

“The founder of Colchester was Coellas or Coile earl of Colchester and king of Britain, who began his reign in the year of our Lord 262, ruling it for a certain time to the content of his subjects, till Constantius appointed by the Romans, passed over into this isle with an army, which prut Coyle in such dread that he immediately sent an embassage and concluded a peace, covenanting to pay the accustomed tribute and give to Constantius liis daughter in marriage, called Helena, a noble lady and learned, who was the mother of Constantine the Great. Shortly after Coyle died, after he had reigned as some write 27 years, or as others have it but 13 years. But to this day the townsmen of Colchester, in remembrance of King Coyle there found or keep in reparation a well railed about, in the chiefest street of the town, and on the top of the pump the effigies of King Coyle, and on each corner of this enclosure the town arms. Conduits they can have none, because the situation is on ground as high or higher than any hereabouts, I mean that which is walled. Sixteen churches and a ruinous castle for public buildings are reckoned within this town and her precincts. The castle (now a prison) for the county was the palace of King Coyle, of late years made famous for the suffering of those two worthy knights, Sir George Lisle and Sir Charles Lucas, who were here shot to death. In that place where they fell the grass at this day doth not grow or hide the earth, although it grows thick and plentiful round about. Seven thousand came into the town with my Lord Goring and these two knights being hotly pursued by the army under Sir Thomas Fairfax, so that they had no time to make provision, and yet for all that they held out eleven weeks with a great deal of gallantry against the enemy, being driven by extremity of hunger before they did yield it up to eat their horses. In this siege the suburbs of the town were much ‘ endamnified,’ but since for the most part repaired; but St. Buttall’s (Botolph’s) one of the fairest churches of the town is yet a ruinous spectacle by means of the siege. They after surrendering paid £1,000 for composition to the Parliament-"The chief manufacture of this town does consist in making of rugs and baize, which doth employ so many hands that they are able to make 10,000 able men. They have likewise enrichments from the sea by a river navigable for hoys to St. Leonards (Hythe), a part of the town. At the mouth of the river lies Cole, their port town.

" Five miles from Colchester in the road to Ipswich lies Nayland, a little market town in Suffolk, surrounded with rich meadows mellowed by a river running through the town, and half a mile from it lies Stoke, on the top of the hill, a town as big as Nayland; and between this and Sudbury on the River Stour, which runs to Colchester, lies Buash (Bures), Lamarsh, and Hene (Henny) Magna, where my worthy friend, Mr. Charles Forbinch, formerly parson of Sandford, in Oxfordshire by Oxon, doth live, and is now rector of this place, 1662, at which 1 io1.iso I had a hearty welcome for some weeks.

“ About five miles from this gentleman’s house, on the edge of Suffolk, lies Sudbury, a fair market town situate upon the River Stour, a part of it called Ballington (Balingdon) being in Essex. ’Tis beautiful with three fair churches, whose towers and steeples at some distance as you come out of Essex through Ballington, seem to stand in the form of an equilateral triangle. The churches’ names are St. Gregory’s, St. Peter’s, and All Hallows’. In the last the family of the Edens, who live now at Ballington, hath a fair monument. By this church there was a priory, now the house of Mr. How’s. (Robert How purchased Sudbury Priory in 1621.)

Here was likewise an abbey, some time the residence—or else the town was his birth-place— of the learned man Simon, of Sudbury, afterwards Archbishop of Canterbury.

"From Sudbury to Cambridge is. accounted twenty miles, but I found them long ones, the nearest way leads through Bulmer, next Water Belching (Belchamp Walter), which is about four miles from Sudbury. There is one parish more called Assington (Ashen) I went through before. I got out of this by way of Stoke (by Clare), which hath two inns in the road from Sudbury to Cambridge, here one Sir Jarvis Alloway hath an ancient house, formerly some monastery (Stoke College). Here is to be noted that this place is in the county of Suffolk, which is divided from Essex by the river Stour, that about Haverel (Haverhill) hath its fountain, which is a thoroughfare town on the road, 4 miles nearer Cambridge, and about 10 from Sudbury, The making of fustian and dimity is here a great trade, also about these parts saffron is much planted, but as to the discourse of the husbandry and planting of it, they gave me this account, viz.:— About midsummer when they design to new plant a ground, for they usually let the roots stand three or four years, they dig them up and dung the ground, and then set them again as thick as they can plant them, and 5 inches deep, that so they may hoe off the weeds for three or four years without spoiling the roots, for they let the weeds grow all the summer for cattle to feed on, and hoe them off about the middle of September a little before the saffron flowers begin to rise. In the first year’s planting the roots do yield but few flowers, the second and third years they bear flowers plentifully, and in the fourth year are dug up again to be dunged and planted as above said. When the flowers come up the people are dilligent to gather them in baskets and to take out the chives in the middle of them of a reddish colour, - and that is that which they call saffron. Then these chives are dried in an iron pan over the fire till they are so well dried that they are not apt to be mouldy.

Thus cured, a pound is valued at 25 shillings in these days, but formerly it was double the price of the weight of silver for saffron. These saffron heads or roots are grown so cheap that you may now in these parts buy a bushel of them for one shilling and sixpence, and sometimes a shilling, as the man at the "Dog” at Melsome, in the road between Royston and Cambridge told me. A little beyond Havrel (Haverhill) is Cambridgeshire. From Havrel to the University of Cambridge they have two ways, the one leads through a market town, if I am not mistaken, called Linton, which is the farthest, and the nearer through Ratton (Wratting), a rotten place in which is a poor inn where I was glad of a bed as hard as a board, and the country hereabouts is a very rotten soil, for the men as well as the women are forced to go in high iron pattens. Four miles forward and not far from my Lord Allington’s house I went by Balsom (Balsham) over Newmarket Heath, where there is a deep ditch thwarting the plains or heath commonly called Devil’s ditch, cast up as I suppose for a boundary between the East Angles and the Mercians. The way leads along the side of this ditch or trench from whence you have five or six miles distance a goodly prospect of the famous University of Cambridge, seated, in a spacious level.'

By an easy descent from these hills you shall come to Fulbourn, a country town, but remarkable because it hath two churches in one churchyard, built by two maids, and covered with moor reed, and are two distinct parish churches, as people then told me in ’62. From whence I went to Chesterton, for the description of which town and Cambridge I shall refer you to another journey, and speak but a little of it here.

“Cambridge, situate on the east side of the liver Cam, might have its name from thence, although some historians derive it from Can-t.aber, who 375 years before the Incarnation had there settled the muses’ seat, and albeit in many ages this city like many others hath tasted many woful fortunes, yet now it is beautified and fairly adorned with sixteen colleges and halls full stored with painful students. The most magnificent for building are Trinity and King’s College, joining to which is that famous structure built by Henry the Sixth, but finished by Henry the Seventh, called King’s College Chapel, for elegant workmanship equal if not superior to any church wrork elsewhere in England, having in it on the right side a fair library. This chapel runs in length without any pillars in the body to support the roof or aisles, thwarting from north to south as in most cathedrals, having curiously carved in stonework upon the inside of the walls, the arms of the then present kings, being divided in the midst to distinguish the choir from the body by a rare partition of joinery work, on which is erected a beautiful organ At the West end of the chapel on the right side is a staircase, by which I ascended the leads, where besides the view of Cam’s meanders courting fair Cambridge with embraces, I discovered a spacious plain of the largest extent that I have seen any in England, so that in this she doth outstrip her sister Oxford. But for sweet air, situation, and magnificient buildings, much beneath her, excepting the fabrick on which I stand, which yields to none in England. Upon the chapel at each corner mounting above the leads are four spires or tall pinnacles, and between these on the sides and ends lesser pinnacles.

“The schools of Cambridge are not to be compared to the durable monument of Bodley’s in Oxford, yet they have a fair market place, which Oxford wants, and at the upper end a conduit. (This was erected in 1624 at the expense of the famous carrier Hobson.) St. Mary’s Church here is well nigh as fair a building as ours at Oxford, but the black dirty streets do eclipse the splendour of their buildings.”

Friday, September 06, 2013

Threat of a 'Solar Farm' to Dean Lodge and Durcks Pigthtle at Belchamp St Paul

There is very likely to be a Roman site in the area, at Dean Lodge Field, Church Street, Belchamp St Paul, and it is under threat of being turned into a 'solar farm'.

Our archaeological sites are important. There is much that has never been explained about the archaeology of the edge of the Stour Valley between Clare and Melford. The 'Metal Detectorists'  say that there are signs of a Roman military building of some sort, and field-walking turns up a fair amount of Roman material, mostly tile. If the pattern here is the same as the edge of the valley around Melford, then one can say that there are evenly-spaced villas roughly two miles apart on the gentle south-facing slopes.

Essex archaeological sites are particularly valuable. The Roman occupation of Essex is not well understood, mainly because the dry soil isn't kind to any archaeology. It was very densely occupied due to the nearness of the Colonia at Colchester, and there are a surprisingly large number of roman roads criss-crossing  the area. The Roman buildings are detectable by their roof-tiles rather than their walls. Then, as now, there is precious little stone and the Romans did what the medieval inhabitants did, build out of wood. Detecting a Roman oak sill-plate would be next to impossible.
The roads themselves were very lightly built too, just like their medieval counterparts. The climate is kind and 'soft' roads sufficed, but leave very little trace. In short, East Anglian archaeology isn't spectacular, even though it was the most densely populated part of Britain.

We strongly suspect that there is some sort of Roman site here. Roman pottery was found at Langley Wood and Little Dean Lodge in 1913-23. This is part of an area that  lies within a Historic Environment Character Area (HECA) and Historic Environment Character Zones (HECZ).  The Historic Environment Management and Records Teams of Essex County Council are of the opinion that  a range of high quality archaeology  probably survives within the zone (2010. Braintree. Historic Environment Characterisation Project Essex County Council) 
'These sites constitute a finite, non-renewable resource vulnerable to damage and that Braintree District Council will seek to protect, enhance and preserve both sites and their settings.' (p4)
 It was distressing to hear that this site is part of a proposed 'Solar Farm'. This involves the installation and operation of a solar electricity generating plant along with all the required infrastructure, including PV panels, mounting frames, inverts, switchgear, access tracks, security fencing and pole mounted security cameras.  This involves piles of c 0.1m diameter being driven into the ground for support a framework over 2 metres high that holds the support solar panels. An archeological survey funded by the energy company proposing to build this industrial installation concludes
'Based on current evidence the site is shown to have potential for heritage assets to be present, particularly relating to the Roman period. Accordingly, the proposed scheme may have an impact on any archaeological remains that are present.'
This means 'Yes, there is probably archaeology there and Yes, it is going to be ruined by putting in the industrial equipment. if it is nearer the surface than 1.5 metres.
It isn't just the piles that will hurt the archaeology
Impacts on archaeological remains, if present, are likely to arise where groundworks associated with the scheme extend below the topsoil, thus the construction of the array frame, sub-stations and cable runs may have an impact.
 So, is there likely to be archaeology there and would it be interesting?
“Much pottery has been ploughed up at the top of the field W of the wood, 28 ins below the surface (78754403)”;  (Essex Historic Environment Record-EHER report)
Roman artefacts are recorded as having been recovered from within the site and to both the west and the north, and it is therefore considered likely that there are further heritage assets of Roman date within the site. These could range from additional artefacts in the ploughsoil to more substantial features such as field boundary ditches or settlement remains.
To the north of the site, on the edge of the study area, a large collection of Roman metalwork was recovered in the mid 1990s. The artefacts included 30 Roman coins and three broach fragments of Longton Down and Hod Hill type, along with various studs and rivets (Essex Historic Environment Record EHER 48136, Fig.2). On the western edge of the study area a scatter of Romano-British pottery was found in the 1980s (EHER 7045, Fig.2).
The St Paul's Hall/Church manorial site is close to the site.
Sources have suggested that masonry remains have been found on the site and they may perhaps be of Roman date (EHER 6992).
Yes, it seems that this was a roman site.
Not only is the archaeology likely to be destroyed, but a number of listed buildings around the site will be spoiled by their proximity to what will become an industrial area. To quote the report...
There is the potential for the development to have a limited impact on the setting of heritage assets (Listed Buildings) located outside the boundary of the development area.
It is probably best to ask the home-owners how limited that might be!

If you're as concerned as I am, there is time to object to these plans and make sure that Braintree District Council is aware of the concern of local historians and anyone who is keen on our vanishing countryside.

13/00832/FUL: Installation and operation of a solar farm and associated infrastructure, including PV panels, mounting frames, inverts, switchgear, access tracks, security fencing and pole mounted security cameras. Big Deere Lodge Field, Church Street, Belchamp St Paul, Essex

All quotes taken from the Archaeological Desk-Based Assessment  prepared for the applicant, Sovereign Energy Partners, by Ellen Heppell  June 2013

Information from Essex Historic Environment Record

Thursday, September 05, 2013

A Great Drought

This is from the registers of Cotton, and is taken from the account of that parish in the Davy MS. 

"In the Christenings, Ao. 1652. This yeare were all our highways paved hard to the 23rd day of November, and the ditches as empty as in the greatest drought, and pastures as dry as at Midsummer, to the middle
of January. (Mirandum divinum). Further, the drought was more extreme in February than in any time before, neither was there any rayne till the middle of March, but the Pastures were never well till our Lady, 1653.
P. me, Gul. Smyth, Rector."