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Ongar Millennium History Society

Ongar Millennium History Society
Newsletter

February 2011
Hopefully spring is around the corner and we can look forward to some interesting meetings and activities over the next few months, including the Marion Slade Lecture about Epping Forest. We have followed this with a couple of walks through the forest led by Tricia Moxey. We have arranged two separate walks to allow for a two mile walk or a gentle stroll!

I have had a good mix of contributions this time, so thank you to all of you who have submitted items. It does make the newsletter more varied to read, so keep them coming!

Jenny Main, Editor

















Committee Members 2010-2011

Chairman: Felicitie Barnes
Vice Chair: Jenny Main
Treasurer: John Winslow
Speaker Secretary: Carol Barber
Minute Sec: Elisabeth Barrett
Bookings Sec: Wendy Thomas
Cttee member: Olive Glassington
Website+: Keith Snow

Christmas 2010 back to top

It seems a long while ago now, but on 8 th December, we had an enjoyable social evening. It was very cold and a little icy outside, but inside it was warm and welcoming for our Christmas get-together at the Ongar Town Council rooms.  Over 50 of our members enjoyed a chat and festive cheer, but Jenny wouldn't let our little grey cells rest.  She provided a cryptic quiz of London Underground stations that certainly made us all think!

During the evening, the latest OMHS publication of “Ongar People Remember: World War II Stories” was launched.  Several of the twelve members who had contributed to the book over the past couple of years were present.

Many thanks to Felicitie, Jenny, Wendy, Elisabeth and Olive for organising the Christmas fare, and thanks also to everyone for coming along and making such a pleasant evening.

John Winslow


Railway at Ongar since 1865 – a talk by Edwyn Gilmour back to top

OMHS has continued its 2010/11 programme with an illustrated talk on the history of the railway at Ongar given by Edwyn Gilmour, assisted with video footage by David Welford.

Edwyn told us that the railway reached Ongar 146 years ago in 1865. Before that date a turnpike linked Epping with Ongar. By the mid 19 th century turnpikes had seen their revenues fall as railways advanced. Many small companies were competing to build rail links between towns including the Eastern Counties Railway (ECR) who, by 1862, had linked Loughton to Stratford with plans to extend to Ongar via Epping.

In 1862 the Great Eastern Railway (GER) had absorbed many of these companies, including ECR. GER was short of money, but, by building a single track, reducing cuttings and embankments and using level crossings like the one at North Weald to avoid bridge building, the Epping to Ongar line was completed. The legacy of a single track undulating line was to have an impact on the line’s viability in later years.

Finances improved for GER and it became the most successful of the railway companies. The Ongar line was busy with freight traffic, initially going into Bishopsgate then to Fenchurch Street, and by 1917 the station had complex goods sidings. Ongar at that time was surrounded by dairy farms and milk was the main freight leaving the station – at one time 22,000 gallons weekly were being off-loaded at stops along the line and into London. This business eventually switched to road transport following a rail strike. Ongar was not intended to be the end of the line. Over the years various plans were made for continuing to Bury-St-Edmunds, Central Essex, and Dunmow. In 1945 Ongar was considered for the site of a new town in the Abercrombie Plan and a three-platform station was envisaged extending the line to Chelmsford.

1923 saw further amalgamation of railway companies and GER became part of London and North Eastern Railway (LNER). 1934 was the year of an accident at Ongar when a goods train ran out of control downhill from Blake Hall, stopping only when the engine ended up on the bank at the end of the station!

Electrification of the North East London line was first planned by LNER and London Transport (LT) in 1937 but was halted by the war. After the war the railways were nationalised and the freight service at Ongar switched to running at night. When LT took over the line in 1949 steam engines were still in use although a lightweight diesel train was tried out in 1950 for a short time. The last steam train ran in April 1962 when the surface line to Liverpool Street was severed at Leyton.

With the loss of freight, the limitations of a single track and falling passenger numbers, the Epping to Ongar line was threatened with closure by LT. There was a reprieve in 1981 but the line finally closed and the last train ran in September 1994. With the possibility of closure in 1981, the Epping Ongar Railway Society was formed and put in a bid to run the line when it closed. Video footage was shown of some of the work that the Society undertook to preserve the line. But the decision was taken to sell the line to Pilot Developments. The line is now under care of the Epping Ongar Railway and is being developed as a heritage railway, at present running from North Weald to Ongar.

Edwyn and David were thanked for the very interesting presentation and there was a lively and informative question session.

Elisabeth Barrett



Finding old coins in the Ongar Hundred back to top

Frank Knights brought along several display cases containing countless old coins and artefacts all neatly grouped, identified and labelled to a meeting at Great Stony.  Frank told the packed meeting how he and his colleague, Brian Cole, had found the items with their metal detectors, all close to home within the Ongar Hundred.  Several coins were over 2000 years old depicting the heads of Roman emperors together with numerous Roman buckles, brooches, and other accessories. Later coins depict the heads of early English kings through the centuries to the Tudors and Stuarts.

Frank explained that the permission of land owners or farmers must be obtained before any search can be made. Sometimes the most amazing things turn up such as a razor sharp cutting tool thousands of years old still in tiptop condition.  There were also many Roman coins found in one spot.  Perhaps they belonged to a trader who had to leave the vicinity in a hurry or just put there and hidden for safety, but they were never collected by the owner.  We will never know why!

The British Museum and Epping Forest District Museum have shown interest in some of the items found. We just don't know how much or what part of history is under our feet or homes. If only Ongar had a museum of its own where such things could be on display...

John Winslow

Ongar District Cottage Hospital War Memorial Scheme back to top

It is usually accepted that the Ongar Cottage Hospital was established exclusively by Dr Hackney in a bungalow at 67 Fyfield Road in September 1928, and that it was a totally separate entity from the War Memorial Hospital which did not open until 1933. Close examination of the minute book of the Ongar District Cottage Hospital War Memorial Scheme (ERO A/HW 4/1/2) shows that this account is not entirely correct.

The minute book begins in December 1926 with funds at nearly £4500. It was agreed that the ‘present site’ in Fyfield Road should be used for building a nursing or convalescent home at a cost not exceeding £1500, and that the site should be vested in nominated trustees who included two of the local GPs, Dr Ferguson and Dr Wilson. Messrs Pertwee and Howard, architects in Chelmsford, were to be employed to draw up plans for a convalescent home. Twelve months later, their finalised proposals were duly discussed by the committee. The estimated cost of construction was £2225.

Progress was very slow until November 1928 when there was a ‘long discussion’ about the newly opened cottage hospital. This event seems to have spurred the committee into action as, only 10 days later, they agreed to build a new hospital for about £2000 and to support the cottage hospital in the meanwhile. Five weeks later, the cost of the hospital project had risen to £3000, and it was agreed that during its construction the cottage hospital would be called ‘Ongar & District War Memorial Hospital’ and would be supported financially by the committee. On completion, the new hospital would take over all the equipment currently in the cottage hospital.

However, eleven months later nothing had happened. About £850 had been paid to support the cottage hospital, but Pertwee and Howard’s designs for the new building seem to have been abandoned, as a prize of 5 guineas was to be offered for the best design produced as a result of an advertisement in ‘The Builder’ of 6 December 1929. In February 1930 the committee considered about 50 submissions and proposals and chose a design by Mr J B Wise of Stratford. Something must have gone badly wrong at this point, as only a week later Mr Howard of Pertwee and Howard was invited to be the architect for the new hospital. By May, Howard’s plan had been costed at £7000 and he was instructed to reduce this to £3000. The modified plans, not surprisingly, were considered inadequate and lacked an operating theatre.

The impossible conundrum of adequate facilities and affordability continued to dog the committee for another ten months, but finally in March 1930 plans estimated to cost £3627 were agreed. The agreement must have been fragile as, only two months later, Dr Hackney resigned from the committee, having expressed strong disapproval of the proposed hospital which he believed was too small. In spite of this, the same meeting agreed the contract to construct the hospital with the Ongar builders F M Noble at the cost of £3307-14-8. However Dr Hackney’s resignation seems to have precipitated a major row, and there were several more resignations noted at the next and final meeting on 8 June 1931, on the grounds that ‘the hospital seemed to be for one particular man, and that the doctors would not work with other medical men’.

One suspects a clash of personalities (not unusual amongst independent-minded individuals like GPs) but no subsequent minute books have survived to elucidate this. The fact that the last entry left many blank pages in this minute book would suggest that a new committee was constituted in order to administer the War Memorial fund and to oversee the building of the new hospital.

It is interesting to compare the sequence of events revealed by the minute book with the usually accepted version that Dr Hackney, dissatisfied with both the design and the lack of progress, branched out on his own in 1928 and had nothing further to do with the War Memorial project. On the contrary he remained involved until 1931, and his own cottage hospital was partly funded from the War Memorial fund, probably until the new hospital opened in 1933. Also he had agreed to the transfer of equipment from his hospital to the new one when it opened. As a keen surgeon, he was probably correct in believing that the new hospital would be too small. There is no doubt that the new operating theatre was woefully inadequate and within a few years it required an extension to provide a proper scrub and sterilising room. Also his was by no means the only dissenting voice, as others were clearly unhappy about the committee being dominated by certain (unnamed) individuals. It is a shame that subsequent minute books have not survived to reveal more of the story, but perhaps they were victims of the wartime drive for scrap paper.

Michael Leach

Comment from the Chair back to top

Elsewhere in this newsletter is a write up about the very successful meeting we had when Frank Knights and Brian Cole showed us their coins and other finds from the Ongar Hundred. Everyone was most impressed when we were told that they wanted Ongar to have custody of these artefacts for future generations.

We have had thoughts in the past about setting up an Ongar Museum. Judith Cook the Deputy Town Clerk from Ongar Town Council spoke on this theme at our AGM and said the OTC was pursuing the use of the Cemetery Chapels for a museum, but it all depended upon getting grants. Is this something that you our members, can think about, and come up with some ideas, as to other suitable venues? We will pursue anything that is viable.

As I mentioned at the Frank Knights talk, we are now putting together future programmes, and would like to hear from you if there is anything you would be interested in and would like us to put on. Perhaps there is a topic that you have missed from previous years. You can look up on our website (omhs.org.uk) because old newsletters are there, with some of the things we have covered in the past.

Hoping to see you all at the Marion Slade lecture on March 25 th.

Felicitie Barnes (chair)


Our Website back to top

A reminder to keep your eyes on our website at http://omhs.org.uk/ as new material is gradually being added. You can access a range of information about the history of Ongar, read past newsletters, and view some photographs relating to the area in the past, including the Then and Now series and the High Street photographic survey. There is also a section containing maps of the town, although at present only the 11 th/12 th century map of Chipping Ongar and the 1870s Ordnance Survey map are available on the site. More photographs, maps, magazine and newspaper articles relating to Ongar’s past will be added in the future.

Everyone can access the website and this will allow us to publicise the Society and attract new members. It will also make people aware of the projects we have undertaken, including the designing and crafting of the church kneelers, the publication of the book Aspects of the History of Ongar and the production of the DVD Bygone Ongar 1940s to 1960 s. The website includes video excerpts from the DVD which will bring back memories and encourage viewers to purchase a copy if they don’t already have one.

Russell Ball designed and created the website and will continue to be associated with the project as webmaster. He will maintain the site and update it regularly, adding items as they become available.

We welcome any suggestions for items to be added to the website. Please contact Keith Snow with any ideas or materials you would like to see added

There is also a Links facility that, at the press of a button, will take you to other relevant websites. At present there are only two: the Epping Forest District Council parish profile on Ongar and an encyclopaedia entry on Chipping Ongar. We need more – so suggestions please.

From our email inbox back to top

I have just been going through my genealogical files and discovered some postcards addressed to a Mr C Lagden, circa 1939.

I also note that these were offered to any genuine interested parties via The Essex Society for Family History by myself in February 1998, but I do not seem to have had any response from them.

It does seem to be an awful shame to me that these documents remain unclaimed and I am wondering therefore if any of your members may have any connections with the name of Lagden, who lived at that time in Bovinger.

I would be more than happy to pass these on to any of your members who could satisfy me of some genuine connection with the aforesaid and I look forward to hearing from you accordingly.

Regards, E Roberts

Ed’s note: If any of you can throw any light on these postcards addressed to a

Mr C Lagden of Bovinger, please let me know and I can pass the information on.

Thank you.



Useful web sites back to top

Members with access to the internet will know that there is a wealth of historic information and interesting detail just waiting to be discovered.  The problem arises in knowing where to find the appropriate web sites and with this in mind,  the following may be of some help.  If you do not have a computer at home, there is free internet access in the library and the staff there will be most helpful  to guide you on the way.

www.londonlives.org   London Lives 1690 - 1800   If you have London ancestors or want to learn more about London life in the  18th century, there are 15 databases containing 3.5 million names.

www.ghostsigns.co.uk   Find out more about the towns and cities where your ancestors lived.  Contains over 600 pictures and faded remains of old advertisements.  There are 13 references to Essex.

www.britishpathe.com/index.php  On this magnificent site there are 3,500 hours of film from 1896 to 1970 with some just 1 minute long.   Includes about 800 for Essex.

www.historyofstratford.co.uk   Discover the history of the area through transcriptions and alphabetical listings of the general, street, commercial and private residents in directories from early 1800's - early 1900's.

www.publicprofiler.org/worldnames Surname distribution worldwide There are 300 million names from 26 countries showing all sorts of analyses.

www.ukmfh.org.uk    UK military family history  research with links to 1,100 web sites

The list is endless. Happy Hunting!

John Winslow

OMHS presents  


The Marion Slade Lecture 2011  


“Who actually saved Epping Forest in the 19 th century?”


by Richard Morris, Epping Forest Verderer  


Friday 25 th March 2011, 7.45 for 8pm at


High Ongar Village Hall Mill Lane , High Ongar CM5 9RN  


Cheese and wine buffet to follow

Tickets priced £6 from John 362461 or Elisabeth 362468