The Foxearth and District Local History Society

The Hysterical Hystorian

For occasional articles, snippets and announcements by the Resident Historians.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 Historical information doesn't really go out of date!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.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Keeping warm with an ancient gentlewoman

From the pages of the Ipswich chronicle, for 1741 comes the following delightful story. One only wishes that the reporter had gone into more detail

January 3rd 1741

London-----From St Edmunds in Suffolk we hear that an ancient gentlewoman of 72 years with an estate of £300 per annum had to defend herself from the extremity of the cold weather, in an honourable way taken to bed a young fellow of 23 years.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

The 'English Sweat'

One of the more memorable deaths in history was that of Andrew Ammonius, the italian secretary to Cardinal Wolsey, who, when London was in the grip of the 'Sweating Sickness' announced to Sir Thomas More that 'his own precautions would render him and his family immune to plague'. He died that very night of the Sweating sickness. This virulent Influenza-like disease was characterised by its extremely rapid and fatal course. East Anglia suffered particularly from this form of plague in a series of attacks in the sixteenth century.

Sweating sickness is rather a puzzle. It was, for a long time, confined to England, though eventually it swept through Eastern Europe before burnig itself out for ever. Unlike 'The Plague', which was likely to have been bubonic plage but could have been anthrax, we have a reasonable description of the symptoms from an eyewitness, John Kaye or Caius, the physician..

The disease began very suddenly with a sense of apprehension, followed by cold shivers (sometimes very violent), giddiness, headache and severe pains in the neck, shoulders and limbs, with great prostration. After the cold stage, which might last from half-an-hour to three hours, followed the stage of heat and sweating. The characteristic sweat broke out suddenly, and, as it seemed to those accustomed to the disease, without any obvious cause. With the sweat, or after that was poured out, came a sense of heat, and with this headache and delirium, rapid pulse and intense thirst. Palpitation and pain in the heart were frequent symptoms. No eruption of any kind on the skin was generally observed; Caius makes no allusion to such a symptom. In the later stages there was either general prostration and collapse, or an irresistible tendency to sleep, which was thought to be fatal if the patient were permitted to give way to it.' (from the 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica).

The first recorded outbreak of the sweating sickness was a few days after the landing of Henry at Milford Haven on the 7th of August 1485, being spoken of before the battle of Bosworth on the 22nd of August. The french mercenaries that had been hired to assist were probably carriers of the disease. It then broke out in London soon after the arrival of Henry's army in London on the 28th of August 1485. From here it spread to Essex.

A second more minor outbreak occurred in 1507 followed by a severe epidemic in 1517 In some town in East Anglia, half the population are said to have perished. There is evidence of the disease having spread to Calais and Antwerp, but with these exceptions it was confined to England. It was this strange confinement that led the desease to be called 'The English Sweat'.

In 1528 the disease recurred for the fourth time, and with great severity. It first showed itself in London at the end of May, and speedily spread over the whole of England, though not into Scotland or Ireland. In London the mortality was very great; the court was broken up, and Henry VIII. left London, frequently changing his residence. Anne Boyeln was said to have suffered from it but survived. Her brother in law died. In August 1529 it was specially severe at Cambridge, and all who had it in their power forsook the town for the country, including Thomas Cranmer who met King Henry for the first time as they took refuge in the Essex Countryside.

After a final, and very nasty epidemic in 1551 the disease lost its vigoour, though there seems to have been an outbreak in Colchester between 1578 and 1579.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Wrestling with the technology

A while ago, we thought it would be an idea to release our first publication, Foxearth Brew, onto the website. This is part of our celebrations at the revival of brewing as a local industry now that The Nethergate Brewery has moved to the parish of Pentlow within walking distance of the site of Wards' Brewery. We have nearly sold out (there is the odd box here and there if you are quick!) and it seems unlikely in view of our publication schedule that we'd ever republish, so it seemed sensible to place it on the website for anyone likely to be doing research on Wards' Brewery.

The book was prepared in Wordstar, which does not convert well into HTML. (Microsoft's attempts have been extremely feeble in view of the importance of web publishing). How on earth does one deal with all the tables, footnotes, indexes and other paraphanalia?

Then along came Aurelia Reporter from Aurelia Systems. This appears to the system to be a printer driver, but it actually creates HTML which you can email, or upload to a website. It deals with long documents by paging them, allows 'anchor' indexing and deals with graphics with complete accuracy. It allows a perfect text and graphics HTML from any application that can print. It even allows the embedding of fonts, a notoriously tricky business. If I were Bill Gates I'd buy the company.

It aint perfect, but it is good enough for us and will allow us to extend our website

Foxearth Brew- the complete book

Whilst on the subject of technical solutions, I must also recommend Abby Finereader. This OCR software works magically, and is so far ahead of any other software on the market that one gasps at its skill. It is actually possible to convert a stack of documents into indexable text-based HTML documents in a batch. For a historian, it is a wonderful resource as one can OCR complex data and then use PC tools to search text. For a web publisher faced with complex designs, it is a godsend, able to OCR a page, and convert it straight into MS Word, HTML, Text or Excel formats. It was developed in Russia, I believe, and the rumour is that it was developed to convert the huge mass of typewritten KGB documents into digital text so that it can be indexed and studied for historical and forensic reasons. Certainly, the software is very good at dealing with typewritten documents.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

The photographic heritage

If it seems as if the rate of change on the site has slowed slightly recently, it is becuase we have been blessed by being allowed to scan in two wonderful collections of Cavendish Photographs, those of Jeremy Eldridge and Stan Thompson.

These photographs take a lot of time to scan and prepare for publication on the site. Why tamper with them at all? Perhaps we can illustrate why by taking a part of a postcard from around 1900

The Lower Road, Cavendish looking towards the United Reformed Church
The original photograph

this photograph retains a huge amount of information. it just isn't easy to see. In fact, this shot contains views of long-demolished houses of which there seem to be no other surviving record at all. The original photo is of enormous value and must be preserved at all costs, but we can do some work on the scanned version to bring out that detail. In this example, we have changed the levels, and removed some of the blemishes, particularly where they mislead the eye. Often, re-focusing is necessary. Here it probably isn't but we've done some re-focusing just to show how useful it is to get to detail.

The Lower Road, Cavendish looking towards the United Reformed Church
The re-worked image

Obviously, this is becoming like a form of archaeology, and it gets quite exciting when detail that lies unsuspected in a small faded scrap of a photograph comes back to life. Some of the Glemsford Photographs were in such poor condition that I used to collapse in giggles when Terry Baxter brought them to me. There is a real pleasure in bringing them back to life

So when will the new treasures be on the site? Soon, soon. A few more to go but I promise they'll be worth the wait.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

A fearful and terrible noise

In 'Alborow', in Suffolk (methinks Aldeburgh), according to a pamphlet of 1642, a strange event occurred. for ninety minutes in the afternoon, from around four o'clock people heard the sounds of battle. There was Cannon-fire, several rounds of shot and the beating of drums. Then the noise abruptly stopped and an eight-inch stone fell to earth. This stone was gathered up by Master Thompson and Captain Johnson, and put on display in the town square. It was seen as a dire warning from God, and a sign of great spiritual importance, and there was much discussion as to its meaning.

Some commentators have suggested that this strange stone was discharged ordnance: a canon or something, and the sounds merely the sounds of a nearby battle. The event happened during the first Civil War. Suffolk was pretty solidly Parliamentarian at the time, Aldeburgh particularly so, raising a foot company for Parliament. The only excitement in Suffolk during the entire war of 1642-1646 was the 'siege' of Lowestoft, a dull occasion that happened a year later. The sounds, and the cannon-shot would have had to have come a long way.

The Pamphleteers of the time were quite capable of making up exciting events out of nothing. However, one suspects that if they had felt themselves free to conjure something exciting from whole cloth, they'd have come up with something better than this. Certainly the description of the sounds is rather close to those of a meteorite, but the stone would have scarely have lain on the surface. Explanation anyone?
The story is told in a contemporary pamphlet as follows
A signe from Heaven, or a fearfull and Terrible Noise, heard in the Ayre at Alborow, in the county of Suffolke
On Thursday, the 4th day of August, at 5 of the clock in the afternoone. Wherein was heard the beating of Drums, the discharging of Muskets and great ordnance for the space of an houre and more, as will be attested by many men of good worth, and exhibited to some cheife members of the Honorable House of Commons. With a stone that fell from the sky in that Storme, or Noise rather, which is here to be seene in Towne, being of a great weight.
--Aug. 12. London : Printed by T. Fawcet, 1642.

Upon Thursday, the 4th day of this instant August, about the hour of foure or five o'clocke in the aftemoone, there was a wonderful noyse heard in the ayre, as of a Drum beating most fiercely, which after a while was seconded with a long peale of small shot, and after that a discharging as it were, of great ordnance in a pitcht-field. This continued with some vicissitudes of small shot and great ordnance for the space of one hour and an halfe, and then making a mighty and violent report altogether; at the ceasingthereof there was observed to fall down out of the skie a stone of about foure pounds weight, which was taken up by them who saw it fall, and being both strange for the forme of it, and somewhat miraculous for the manner of it, was by the same parties who are ready to attest this Truth brought up and shewed to a worthy member of the House of Commons, upon whose ground it was taken up, and by him to divers friends who have both seen and handled the same. Now the manner of finding of this stone was on this wise : one Captaine Johnson and one Master Thompson, men well knowne in that part of Suffolke, were that day at Woodbridge about the lanching of a ship that was newly builded there, who hearing this marvellous noise towards Alborow, verily supposed that some enemy was landed, and some sudden onset made upon the Towne of Alborow. This occasioned them to take Horse and hasten homewards, the rather because they heard the noise of the battel grow lowder. And being at that instant when that greatest cracke and report was made in conclusion, on their way upon an heath betwixt the two Townes, Woodbridge and Alborow, they observed the fall of this stone, which grazing in the fall of it along upon the heath, some 6 or 7 yards, had out run their observation where it rested, had not a dog which was in their company followed it by the scent as was hot, and brought them where it lay covered over with grasse and earth, that the violence of its course had contracted about it. This is the true relation of the finding of this stone, which is 8 inches long and 5 inches broad, and 2 inches thick.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Sketches in Essex

'Sketches of Saffron Walden and its vicinity' by John Player, with John Joungman's illustrations (1845) is a rare book. It is rather charming too, though not the most useful to the local historian. The language is ridiculously flowery to our modern tast but curiously attractive. To give you a flavour of his style, here is the first chapter, a description of Audley End.

Surely the month of May is the most delightful of all periods in the year, to seek the liberty of the fields, and to remark the beauties of the natural world. How agreeable is the verdure, variegated with flowers familiar to us from childhood! The daisy, the butter-cup, and the pagle, the sweet flowers of infancy, with which we once struggled to fill the little lap, are now decking the park and the pasture with the characteristic imagery of spring.

Entering the Park from the Abbey Lane, Saffron Walden, we pass the row of young limes on either hand, dressed in their earliest shade of annual green. Interesting indeed is the view, after advancing a hundred paces within the gates. The grazing cattle in the pasturage around—the deer on the hill to the north—the fields, the cultivated fields, far beyond the Park to the left of the Suffolk Column—the noble House of Audley End, peeping up from the vale westward—Lord Howard's Temple, to commemorate the restoration to health of George III.—the thriving trees, the oak, the beech,—all, all deeply interest the observant pedestrian. Looking backwards, we perceive, beneath the arching branches of those spreading trees, the Church spire —an interesting feature in our local landscape at every point. We have now ascended the acclivity near to the Ice-house, and then again have descended to the road, passing one of the neat and pretty Lodges, built by the present Lord Braybrooke, for utility and ornament to this noble domain.

In the Audley End road, another pleasing view bursts upon the eye. Shortgrove grounds, Wendcn, &c, to the left, the hamlet of Audley End to the right, with the farmhouse in the vale, held by Mr Alderman Smith. Cultivation is associated with plantations, and varied wood and verdure, so as to form a fit subject of meditation for the practical man, as well as the contemplative members of God's vast family. When, too, with the walks and hills, we are enabled to associate the enrapturing pleasure with which we traced them in the buoyant days of boyhood, and see the same glorious sun that cheered our path then, now gilding the hedges, the banks, and the sloping corn fields, we observe them with an intensity of feeling winch cannot be expressed.

Following the course of the old lichened wall that bounds this portion of the Park, we see on the right the beautiful limes towering high, their lower branches spreading across the path, and forming a pleasant shade. When these noble trees are in blossom, and the bees are busy among the brandies, how sweet is the air ! how rich with natural perfume ! On the left is a majestic fir tree, tapering to, its summit, and fringed down to its projecting base, worthy of being a part of one of those local views, which, every spring, are exhibited to many an admiring eye, in London's vast town. Here, in the road, and along its parallel greensward, in our youthful days, a country-fair was held in the mouth of August. It is said to be transferred and continued on Walden Common; but the fair now, and then—-we speak of fifty years ago—is not the same tiling. There was a show, perhaps, and something of the mummery of the day: but there were cheese-stalls, and gingerbread dealers—comparatively few people—great good-humour-—-boughs projecting from the cottagers homes, denoting that a glass of beer and a slice of ham might be had within—children blowing wooden trumpets, and holiday-folk in holiday clothes; and in the afternoon and evening, such an admixture of sober sedateness with light-hearted, innocent jollity, that the whole scene was worthy of Wilkie's pencil; but it is now gone by as a feature of the last century, and soon will be forgotten, as those who witnessed it die off, and bury its remembrance with other trifles that are past.

Going further, we reach, after passing the principal entrance, surmounted by a noble lion, the bridge, which spans the Granta. There we see in the background, eastward, the princely Mansion. It is a gem—a rare gem—and ought to be admired. On the north, the old Elysium gardens are broken up and gone; but they were pleasant in our earlier days. To the privileged few, enjoying retirement and a book, on a summer's morning, it was a sweet retreat from the din and turmoil of busy life. The stream that passed through, and the greensward, are the same; and nature, unassisted, still revels with its soft and pleasant airs, among the trees that surround this well-known spot.

Leaving the bridge, and entering the parish of Littlebury, there is the transparent limpid brook, which still bubbles up as it did in our younger life, when its pure affusions were so grateful to the rambling boy: it was indeed welcome, before pledges of temperance were ever heard or thought of; and suited well with their pursuits who had no idle funds to draw upon at a moment's notice, in a local ramble. Pursuing the road towards Littlebnry, we have there a good view of Lord Braybrooke's abode, with its lawn and liver frontage, and much do we admire it. We have had opportunities of dwelling upon its beauties internally, and of sharing in the kindness and hospitality of its noble inmates— and upon these we could dwell with grateful pleasure—but this would prematurely shorten our morning's ramble; and therefore we proceed on to the Littlebury Lodge. There a new one, with cheerful bay "windows, and an elevated tower, is just finishing on the northern side, to supplant, we presume, the elderly lady who was always hitherto soberly placed, beneath the protecting shade of the lofty Avail. It is a change, indeed, for the better, and indicative of the growing taste of the noble owner, and would form also a pretty vignette or tail-piece, should his lordship publish a second edition of his interesting book on Audley End. On the left of the road the plantation towards the Aviary has been thinned; and there lie many of the trees of an age gone by, reminding the passing traveller that he too shall lie as low—or lower still—in a- short period; proving that the life of man, in the best estate, is soon no mere than a brief epistle from a distant country, or a tale that is told.

At the extremity of the road the village Church of Littlebury shews its tower above the trees in the foreground; while the fields on the right and left of the road, are marked with the produce of the rising year. Time was when the highway went according to landscape gardening—in a curve to the left, and over hill and dale : now, like a Newmarket cut, it is straight as an arrow, and the coach-and-four is viewed for many minutes before it reaches the spot at the one-floor lodge, by which we turn to the Duck-street entrance into the Park. There are the kitchen-gardens, and the arboretum on the right, and on the opposite side, the farm, bounded by the ever-flowing watercourse, which issues from the Park. Then, again, we enter upon a sweet and tranquil scene, bounded on the north side by the deer-park, and its luxuriant trees and crowning groves: while we saunter undisturbedly by the margin of the separating stream; but cheered by its rippling contributions to the harmony—the natural harmony—of the morning hour. The path through the park is a pleasant stroll to the contemplative mind, while the many are busying themselves in life's active duties, and think not, perhaps, that the beauties of creation are unfolding themselves every moment to invite them abroad.

Leaving the Park, we pass the newly-erected Almshouses upon King Edward's foundation. Some of the aged inmates are sunning themselves, seated in the recesses by the gravel walk; while the foreground is richly decorated with flower-beds and the verdant plat. It is a noble effort of charity—charity's brightest emanation—to see the aged of both sexes thus relieved from the anxieties of life, and charmed to fulness with the pleasures of a retreat, with which but few can compare. It is an interesting conclusion, to a charming walk, which, at this lovely season, may well be recommended to others. Yet there are but few, perhaps, who can look upon the whole with the eye that memory fondly assists to enrich it with past joys and beauties that can never fade, while intellect holds its empire, and remembrance is charmed by many dear and heartstirring recollections of the past.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

The Witches of Borley

The story of the Borley witches can be traced ever so faintly in the court reports of the time. What I present here is like a flatpack self-assembly story. Some skills are required in piecing together what weas going on. As the following materials represent all we seem to know about the incidents, you are at liberty to speculate.

Michaelmas 1578 Session Rolls -Indictment

1 March 1578

The jurors present that Margaret Ganne alias Welles and Joan Norfolk of Borley, spinsters, are likewise witches and enchatresses, and that they bewitched John Furmyn at Borley aforesaid on the above date, so that he languished vehemently until 1 May then next following when he died; and so the jurors say that the said Margaret and Joan killed and murdered the said John by witcheraft, contrary to the peace, etc.

Assizes held at Brentwood 14th July 1578

26 May 1578

Recognizances of Roger Welles otherwise Gan, Thomas Ryce and John Clarke, all of BORLEY, yeoman, before Thomas Gentleman esq., for the appearance of Margaret Welles otherwise Gan; to answer.

MICHAELMAS 1578 General Sessions

2-3rd October 1578

John Bragge, Alice Fyrmyn and William fyrmyn to give evidence against Margaret Ganne [alias Welles] at the next Assizes

Henry Kente of Foxearth professes to be at the next Sessions for procuring certain [persons] to be on the Great Inquest

Warrant for good behaviour to be made against John Kent of FOXEARTH at the suit of Thomas Carter [deleted].

Assizes held at Chelmsford 6 August 1579

12 December 1578

Indictment of Joan Norfolke of Barley spinster at FOXEARTH bewitched a grey gelding worth £3, belonging to Geo.Bragg yeoman, whereupon it died. Pleads not guilty; not guilty.

Assizes held at Chelmsford 2 April 1579

2 April 1579

INQUISITION taken at Braintree 2 April 20 [sic] Eliz, before Robert Lord Ryche, Tho.Myldmaye and others The jurors say that Margaret Gannd alias Welles and Joan Norfolk both of Borley spinsters, 1 march 20 Elizabeth there bewitched John Furmyn where of he died 1 May following. Both plead not guilty.

Sessions Rolls Michaelmas 1579

6 September 1579

Indictments of Henry Kent the elder and Henry Kent the Younger of Foxearth, Yeomen, for an assault and battery on Margaret, wife of Roger Ganne alias wells, and richard Salmon, servant to the said roger, at the same.

Assizes held at Chelmsford 6 August 1579

15 April 1579

Indictment of Margt.Milles of Borely spinster at FOXEARTH bewitched five Pleads not guilty; not guilty.

Assizes held at Chelmsford 6 August 1579

28 August 1579

Indictment of Joan Norfolke of Borely spinster at FOXEARTH bewitched Hen.Kent of the same by which for 3 days after he was grievously vexed and disquiested (inquitat') in divers parts of his body. Pleads not guilty; not guilty

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Not Very Sporting

We came across the following lively report of a Cricket Match from the Chelmsford Chronicle for November 1776

" A terrible affair happened this day at Tilbury Fort. A great match of cricket being to be played between Kent and Essex, the parties assembled on both sides. When they were met, a man appearing among the former, who should not have been there, the Essex men refused playing, on which a very bloody battle ensued, and the Kentish men being likely to be worsted, one of them ran into the guard-house and, getting a gun from one of the invalids, fired and killed one of the opposite party. On seeing this they all began running to the guard-house and, there being but four soldiers there, they took away the guns and fell to it, doing a great deal of mischief. An old invalid was run through the body with a bayonet ; and a Serjeant who commands at the fort, in the absence of the officer, endeavouring with his four men to quell them, was shot dead. At last the Essex men took to flight and, running over the drawbridge, made their escape. The Kentish men then made off in their boats, but search is making after them."

This exciting news had been taken from a gravesend letter dated October 29th to the London Chronicle and repeated in the Essex paper, tucked into the London News section. A great deal of detective work by the Cricket Afficionado Leslie Thompson in the early 1960s convinced him that the story was a hoax. County games were never played in Tilbury, which at the time consisted of a Fort, a ferry house and a cow shed, set amongst the salt-marshes. Hornchurch, Stock and Navestock were the nearest that county games ever got to Tilbury. It is certainly possible that it was an impromptu game amongst local teams from either side of the estury heralded as a county game in rather the same way as cockfights were, but the bloodshed would have caused a sensation in Essex and certainly made headlines. There are plenty of examples of hoaxes in the papers we've scanned. The concept of the 'urban myth' is not new, and the papers of the time did not have the staff or the necessary time to check their facts

Am I alone in feeling a tinge of regret that it probably never happened. Cricket caused immense passion at the time. It was not the anodyne sport we see now, but a rough, hot-blooded, contest. It was certainly taken more seriously than warfare. The men of Kent were often referred to as 'Frenchie' due to their coarse and unrecognisable accents, and I can well believe that a cricket dispute could spill over into bloodshed