Ongar Millennium History Society
Well the summer is passing quickly, but don’t worry because we have a packed programme for you coming up this autumn, and we also need willing volunteers to join in with various projects and to help at our exhibition on October 10 th at the URC. So get reading and see what takes your fancy.
I am always pleased to receive contributions for the newsletter from members, so if you have any memories to share or snippets of information that may be of interest to our members please send them to me.
Don’t forget to buy your Ongar 2010 calendars!!
Jenny Main, Editor
Committee Members 2008-
Chairman: Felicitie Barnes
Vice Chair: Jenny Main
Treasurer: John Winslow
Secretary: Barbara MacDonald
Minute Sec: Elisabeth Barrett
Bookings Sec: Wendy Thomas
Website+: Keith Snow
I wish to stand for election to the omhs committee:
Proposed …………………………………. Seconded …………………………..
Visit to Hylands House back to top
On 5th July nearly thirty members enjoyed a most informative visit which neatly followed on from our talk by Wendy Hibbitt on "Life Below Stairs at Hylands House" earlier this year.
Our guide, Diane, kept us amused and interested with tales of the nine private owners since the building was constructed around 1730. They came from a variety of backgrounds and needed considerable wealth to buy, extend and maintain the property with its extensive servant quarters (and staff), and estate which in its heyday covered 4,300 acres. Alas, some owners got into difficulties with family squabbles, gambling, bankruptcy, etc. Then came the World Wars when Hylands was used as a military hospital and for training purposes. It fell into disrepair following the death in 1966 of the last private owner, Mrs Hanbury, and was left abandoned and open to vandalism.
Now lavishly and accurately restored to its former glory by Chelmsford Borough Council, we ascended the Grand Staircase and were led through each opulent room and with Diane's descriptions we were able to relive the past. Several portraits put faces to names. Unfortunately there isn't much left of the area "below stairs" as most of it has been modernised and is now used for courses, administration and the like.
There were very large landscaped gardens to explore but by then most of us were too tired, hot and thirsty! Should any member wish to contact Hylands House about visiting times or events, the telephone no. is 01245 605500
Help sought back to top
In the diaries of Susan Gilbert, the first wife of Josiah Gilbert of Marden Ash (Essex
Record Office, D/DU 1545/1-
Ed’s note: Any ideas to me please and I will pass them on. Thanks
Was the Alexander monument moved?back to top
The earliest eye-
The first reason is that Holman (whose descriptions are usually very accurate) recorded that the monument was on the north wall of the chancel. There is, of course, always the possibility that Holman had made a mistake when transcribing his notes. Unfortunately later antiquarians, such as Nathaniel Salmon (in 1741) and Philip Morant (in 1768), are unhelpful, as they do not mention the position of the monument. In his 1835 History, Thomas Wright (not the most reliable of witnesses) describes the Alexander monument as being in ‘the south aisle’. The south aisle, of course, was not built till half a century later, so perhaps he meant the south side of the chancel, but it is difficult to know how much significance to attach to his evidence.
The second reason is that Holman gave details of a painted board which recorded in detail the ten provisions of the will of Joseph King. In Holman’s time, this board was placed on the south chancel wall near the door – in other words, on or near the position now occupied by the Alexander monument, though it is possible that there might have been room for both. The south chancel door is no longer visible from the inside of the church, but presumably was apparent and in use in Holman’s time. The regularity of the hard gritty plaster which now covers this wall suggests that it was applied after the doorway had been blocked up, perhaps in the ‘harsh and ignorant’ restoration of 1860. The original internal finish would have been a soft smooth lime plaster.
However, the south chancel doorway, with one of its hinge pintles, is still clearly
visible on the outside of the church, blocked by a thin skin of flint infill. The
top courses of the infill are missing and, through the gap, it is possible to see
the higher internal arch of the original door opening (still lined with soft lime
plaster) as well as the brickwork that was inserted to close the opening into the
chancel on the inside. The bricks of this inner wall look regular and well-
Nicholas Alexander died in 1714 and it is reasonable to assume that his monument
was erected soon after. There is no doubt that it could not have been placed in its
present position if the doorway had still been in use at that time, as anyone walking
through it would have hit their head on the lower part of the monument. This means
that either the door had already been blocked up by (or soon after) 1714, or that
the monument was moved at a later date after the door had been blocked, possibly
during the 1860 restoration. If the monument had originally been on the north chancel
wall, it is possible that it had had to be moved in 1861when the north chancel door
was heightened to provide access to the newly built vestry. The blocked south chancel
doorway would have provided a convenient place to re-
The strongest evidence comes from Holman, usually a reliable witness, and from the
brickwork used to block the south chancel door. These bricks appear to be of a significantly
later date than 1714, strongly suggesting that the south chancel wall could not have
been the original position of his monument. It is a surprising fact that many monuments,
found to be in an inconvenient position, were thrown out during church restorations.
However, in this case, the descendants of the Alexander family were still living
in Ongar in the C19 and it is likely that, if so threatened, their influence would
have ensured that the monument was re-
The OMHS was recently given permission to enter the building and roam at large to make a photographic and video record of the interior before being demolished. John Root took about 150 still photographs and David Welford had his close up and wide angle video cameras. The building was largely empty with most of the rooms deserted except for a few bedside cabinets and ceiling pulleys. We feel that as far as we can, we have now made a permanent record of the War Memorial Hospital which can be used for future reference, display and exhibition.
In addition, and with the authority of NHS West Essex, we were given permission to remove all the commemorative plaques throughout the building to add to our own collection of Ongar memorabilia.
About a dozen or so items of all shapes and sizes are now in our store, some of which we hope to display in the forthcoming exhibition "ONGAR'S HIDDEN SECRETS" to be held on Saturday 13th October in the United Reformed Church.
The painting of Budworth Hall being used as a WW1 military hospital, which appeared in the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in 1916, has now been presented by the NHS to the Community Association for display in that building. The only item of community interest remaining in the hospital is the WW1 Scroll of Honour which we understand is to be removed shortly for safekeeping.
Thanks are due to Mrs. Sheila Jackman MBE for using her good offices to enable us to complete the task.
Why Navestock? back to top
It is usual for earthly remains to be interred, if not in the vicinity of the home
of the deceased or of the place of death (if different), then at a location with
which he or she was in some way closely connected. Martin Taylor (1788-
Elizabeth’s maiden name was apparently Venn, though the only evidence for this of
which I am aware is the statement to that effect in the brief paragraph on her daughter
Helen appended to the original DNB article on the Revd Isaac Taylor (1759-
special knowledge of the Taylors and was simply responsible for producing articles on people for whom a more authoritative author could not be found. Of the sources he cites at the foot of the article, I have consulted all I can trace, and none of these makes any mention of Elizabeth Venn. It is thus impossible to say where he obtained the information about her maiden name. He is, however, unlikely simply to have made it up. Unfortunately, no record has yet been found of the marriage of Martin and Elizabeth or of the baptism of Helen; the IGI is silent on both counts and there is no mention of either event in AOMMG or, as far as I am aware, in other surviving Taylor or Gilbert writings. Both Helen’s age at death (67) and those given for her on census returns suggest, however, that she was probably born in 1818 as stated in the DNB article.
There being no obvious reason to connect Martin Taylor with Navestock other than his first wife’s being buried in the churchyard of St Thomas’s, it seemed reasonable to speculate that it was Elizabeth who had family connections there. Was she perhaps born in Navestock? And might her marriage to Martin have taken place at St Thomas’s?
Frustratingly, not only is there nothing in the surviving Navestock registers to
support this theory, but it can't even be completely ruled out because of the incompleteness
of those registers. Not only were a lot of them (including the records of marriages
for several years up to and including 1812) rendered illegible by water damage during
the winter of 1947, but there is a note in the Baptismal Register by the Curate of
the time recording that the Parish Clerk had failed to record most of the baptisms
(and burials) that occurred between 20 September 1789 and 18 November 1791 and had
then tiresomely died before his memory could be tapped on the subject. In case Elizabeth
Venn was a widow when she married Martin, I checked the (incomplete) Navestock baptismal
records for 1791-
So we end as we began, with the question: “Why Navestock?” And with two others, posed by my cousin, Fiona Martin: “Why is it that, in all the numerous memoirs and letters left by the Taylors, there is not a single reference to Elizabeth Venn or to Martin’s first marriage? Was there something about her that offended even their deep sense of the importance of family ties?”
(1) Death certificate; Bishop’s Transcript of the Burial Registers of St Thomas the Apostle, Navestock
(2) Bishop’s Transcript of the Burial Registers of St Thomas the Apostle, Navestock
(3)The Autobiography and Other Memorials of Mrs Gilbert (formerly Ann Taylor) – AOMMG
(4) She died on 4 May 1883 -
(5) Boyd's marriage index of Marriage Licence Allegations -
(6) Gillian Fenwick, The Contributors’ Index to the Dictionary of National Biography
West Sussex Poor Law Records, part 6 Slinfold: Removal order: Charles VENN Par/176/32/3/1 9 Dec 1797
DNB – Dictionary of National Biography ODNB – Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
The BOO quiz -
The OMHS team hope to repeat last year's success by winning the 2009 revamped competition being held on Saturday 24th October. Watch this space! If you want to join our team, please contact John Winslow.
Cemetery recorders needed back to top
In order to make further progress in our recording of the memorial inscriptions in Ongar cemetery and local churchyards, we need volunteers to join our team. If you would be willing to give up a couple of hours per week to help with this project, please contact Felicitie or Jenny.
We would like to thank Bob Macdonald for all his hard work on the project, which has helped us to make big strides forward.
Dates for your diary
Wed 2nd Sept Visit to Essex Police Museum
Meet 7.15pm Chelmsford (Directions follow)
From the Army and Navy roundabout, take the Chelmer Road (A138) exit towards Chelmer Village and bear left at the next roundabout. At the traffic lights, turn left into Sandford Road. Take the fourth turning on the right (just before Lionmede Park) into the Essex Police HQ approach road. Pass Gainsborough Crescent on the right and the museum is before the car park on the left.
Wed 23rd Sept OMHS AGM at Ongar Library
8pm followed by a talk by Jem Barnecutt on
“The Boodle Connection”
Thurs 8th Oct A talk on house history
8pm by Jennifer Butler from ERO
Saturday 10th Oct “Ongar’s Hidden Secrets”
High Street, Ongar
Joint exhibition by OMHS, URC
and Ongar Flower Club
Contributions for next newsletter please!
The next newsletter will be produced in November 2009, so any articles to Jenny by 20th October please. Thank you!