Ongar Millennium History Society
Well what an eventful winter we have had. I hope you managed to get around through
snow and flood. We are sorry that we had to cancel one of our meetings, but the forces
were against us. We will be re-
I cannot believe that we are approaching our 2009 Marion Slade lecture already. It doesn’t seem five minutes since the last one, but I’m sure it will be an entertaining and interesting evening. And of course there will be our famous cheese and wine spread too. I hope you are all going to be getting your tickets soon!
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
House Histories back to top
We are always looking for a new approach and new emphasis to record the history of Ongar. Our aim as you know is to promote and foster an active interest in local history. A few members have already approached us to say they would be interested in looking at the history of some of the notable houses in Ongar. This can be widened out to include Shelley, Greensted and Marden Ash, as well as Chipping Ongar.
In the 1950s the WEA did a project on some of the houses along the High Street, which can be seen at the Essex Record Office, and it would be good to do something similar. If you live in an interesting house, or you know someone who does, it could be the start of a new project. We need enthusiastic helpers who would wish to look at the history of their own house or of another building in the town. We are willing to coordinate this and to arrange some meetings where we can get to know what has already been done, and what we can aim for.
There are several old, large and imposing buildings in Ongar High Street in which we should all have a vested interest, including the Budworth Hall, Essex House, and Central House, if we, as a society, are serious about retaining Ongar’s heritage. Situated between these are residences, pubs and shops with a wealth of history which also need investigating.
Wherever you live, if you have anything to share or you would like to get involved please contact our committee members, Barbara MacDonald on 363722 or John Winslow on 362461
Just part of the service back to top
A Danish lady living in Yorkshire contacted Ongar Library in January seeking information about a fellow countryman called Eskild Terkelsen. The caller was referred to OMHS. Following a recent death in Denmark, the family there were looking through the personal papers of the deceased and found a death certificate issued in the registration district of Ongar in 1935 for Mr Terkelsen and which had lead to the enquiry to us. Apparently he had lived in Ongar but was a ladies tailor and costumier with his own business in Winchmore Hill, North London. We were being asked if we could help to find other information. We were told he was born in 1876 and had probably lived in Chelmsford at one time. The caller from Yorkshire had never even heard of Ongar before this!
A quick look in the Chelmsford telephone directory proved to be very fruitful. Not only was there someone with the same surname listed, but a brief call found that he proved to be the great grandson of the late Ongar resident and was able to fill in more details of their family history. He was very pleased to know that another relative was on the family trail. It seems they didn't know of the existence or whereabouts of each other. The original caller was informed of the progress made by us and was extremely delighted. They have been put in touch with each other. We wish them well in their endeavours.
History on our doorstep back to top
The year 1900 was an important year for the Hackney Board of Guardians. They had just agreed the purchase of land in Ongar on which to build homes for the hundreds of destitute children which came within their responsibility. To mark this purchase a plinth was built on the south eastern edge of their land.
All was well until the guardians were informed of the intention to extend the railway line from Ongar along the northern edge of what is now Mayflower Way. Concern was expressed at the guardians’ next meeting of the danger of having a railway line along the edge of their land.
So it was decided to erect a two strands strong barbed wire fence starting from the plinth on the eastern corner. Like most brick built posts they became what we now would call 'Mile Stones' which would have etched on them distances from neighbouring towns and cities.
Some 40 years later our country was threatened with being invaded by the Germans. So serious was this threat that the first contingent of Americans arrived to help. However, the Government of that day issued instructions that all road signs and town signs were to be taken down and obliterated. Thus, the Board of Guardians of what was now the Hackney Children's Homes had to find a way to hide the directions and information on their sign posts. This they did by chiselling out the now illegal information.
The lower part of the forbidden sign post can still be seen as one walks along the eastern side of the Ongar road. The chisel marks above the lower three brick blocks is true historical evidence of those turbulent times. "Horror upon horror" the spot is now shared with a speed camera, but this little bit of history remains for us to muse over.
Ron Bames…who can remember the 40s....
Ware cheap imitations! back to top
In 1913, Henry Taylor, family historian and a grandson of the Revd Isaac Taylor,
sent his sister Euphemia to Ongar on a mission. He had apparently some reason to
believe that the road in which stood the house that his grandfather bought in 1822
(now No 10, Castle Street) was then called Win Lane. In March 1913, Euphemia reported
back: “When last in Ongar I tried to trace the Win Lane name. But no one cd recall
the name. The road is one leading as you remember past Grandfather’s last house &
on & round by “White House” to Castle House” (memo transcribed by Henry Taylor now
in the Suffolk Record Office HD588/6/38). So the matter stood – not proven -
In January 2003, I received a phone-
Among other gems, my purchase has solved the mystery of Win Lane. The earlier entries
in the book are in the hand of the Revd Isaac Taylor himself and at one point he
writes “1822 May 17. I removed to a house I purchased in the Ware Lane which being
close to the Town will I hope give me more intercourse with the people than (owing
to my frequent illnesses) I have had for several years”. Looking back at a photocopy
of Henry Taylor’s transcription referred to above, I now see what I failed to take
account of before: in one of several annotations in the margins, Henry Taylor has
written against the paragraph in question: “In 1822, Revd I. Taylor purchased house
in Win Lane, Ongar” and (in larger writing, probably written earlier): “ Wire? Lane
Ongar or Weir or Win Lane” (the underlined words subsequently crossed out). It seems
that he had difficulty in making out the handwriting in his source, but eventually
convinced himself that the correct reading was “ Win Lane”. I don’t think that the
source can have been the vellum-
The transcription of the contents of the vellum-
Robin Taylor Gilbert
What are Ancient, Veteran, Notable and other trees of special interest ?
A good question. When Aspects of the History of Ongar was published 1n 1999, already
a decade ago now, one chapter was devoted to Landmark trees, a term then used to
describe and record local trees that were considered special for a variety of reasons
The Woodland Trust, The Ancient Tree Forum and other tree organisations have now come up with an agreed set of classifications which are not only useful for the purpose of recording but should also prove useful and interesting to local historians, least not for the fact that they encourage the view that trees should be seen as much a part of the local historic landscape as man made elements. A local building of note may well be 500 years old but so also may be a tree or trees in its grounds.
An ancient tree is one that has passed beyond maturity and is old, or aged, in comparison
with other trees of the same species. The measurement of the girth and height, although
not an exact science, are amongst the best indicators of age. For example an ancient
oak, allowing for the influence of soil, altitude, climate and growing conditions,
will almost certainly have a girth of 10 metres and beyond and be shorter of stature
than lesser oaks due to crown retrenchment, or as it is more commonly known 'growing
downwards'. A term I rather like because it reminds us that because a tree is starting
to shed its upper limbs and becoming hollow inside it doesn't mean it is dead or
dying. There is a well known saying about oaks that suggests 'An oak tree grows for
300 years. Rests for 300 years and. Spends the next 300 years gracefully declining'.
It is during this 'declining period' that the tree offers some of the rarest and
most valuable habitat for a wide variety of wildlife and yet it is during this period
that it can be at its most vulnerable to removal for a whole variety of reasons -
The term veteran and ancient have been used interchangeably for many years but at the present time a clear distinction is starting to emerge. It is true to say that all ancient trees will be veterans. But the reverse is not necessarily true. In fact some veteran trees can be quite young. The key word is 'survivor'. A veteran tree is a survivor that has developed some of the features found on an ancient tree, not necessarily as a consequence of time, but of its position, life or environment. A veteran may be a young tree with a relatively small girth in contrast to an ancient tree, but bearing some of the 'scars' of age. The oak tree in the centre of the Pleasance Car Park is clearly a veteran as are the remaining oaks that can be viewed from Bansons Lane and feature on the cover of the Ongar Community Tree Strategy.
These trees speak for themselves. They are the tallest of their kind or have the largest girth of their kind either in comparison with all other trees in the UK or within a given region. Whilst the Tree Register of the British Isles holds all of the details of the largest of each species there may well still be undiscovered contenders in the countryside.
A heritage tree is one that has contributed to or is connected to our history and culture. It is a definition that closely mirrors landmark and could equally be applied to all of the landmark trees included in the Aspects of the History of Ongar. The term can also include trees that have rare or great botanical interest and can thus include non native specimens and groups of trees that create particular designs such as avenues, groves, orchards etc.
Notable trees are usually magnificent, well loved, mature examples which stand out in their local environment very often because they are by and large bigger than other tree around them. They are often taller than ancient trees and may be fatter than many veterans without having any of the veteran 'features'. Certainly Ongar has many notable trees (landmark trees) such as the Wellingtonias in Coopers and the Cedar of Lebanon near Castle Street.
So what's in a name? Firstly as we have seen it focuses attention on the minutiae, one may say, personality of the tree, over and above simply identifying by species. Secondly it helps to place trees in their historical context and when used in conjunction with older maps helps to interpret change over time. But thirdly, and perhaps in this day and age most importantly, detailed classification and recording of trees will add great weight to the argument in favour of retaining green belt land over development. It will, in my opinion, be insufficient in the coming decades to simply argue from the emotive, broad brush 'the countryside is nice and shouldn't be touched' approach. Greater, well researched and documented detail of specific trees and the wildlife habitats they support will in turn provide greater clout to the argument, particularly when presented, for example, alongside the Ongar Community Tree Strategy and the formula known as CA VAT (Capital Asset Value for Amenity Trees) which enables local authorities to calculate the approximate value of trees based on the size of the trunk, height, condition and the number of people the tree serves. In essence it's a means of recognising a tree's worth as an amenity asset. We should be particularly proud in Ongar for it was Chris Neilan. EFDC Landscape and Tree Officer, who devised and tested the scheme which is now being taken up by many local authorities faced as they are and we are with threats to development into our precious green belt and associated treescape.
So as local historians and people who no doubt enjoy walking around Ongar with your
eyes open please let me know (363722) if you 'discover' any unusual or special trees
that might fall into one or more of the categories outlined. A number of local Tree
Wardens are available to check them out and who knows they may well end up on the
EFDC Veteran and Notable tree records and website which is currently standing at
just over 1500 trees -
Bob MacDonald, Ongar Tree Warden
NB I am indebted to the Woodland Trust, Ancient Tree Forum and EFDC Countrycare for much of the detail included in this article.
The Borough back to top
The land in the foreground with its abandoned hay cart has a rather forlorn appearance and indeed to this day the area has not been put to any significant use.
The above description was penned in about 1987 when the book (Ongar in old picture
cards) from which the above photograph is taken, was first published. The photograph
by Fred Spalding would appear to have been taken during the early years of the 20th
century judging by its reference to the Matthew and Baker coachworks and mention
of the three arches of the medieval bridge. During the last hundred years The Borough
has been the site of a gas works, a bus company, a part of the proposed western by-
Bob MacDonald .
Dates for your diary
Wed 25th February Visit to David Livingstone’s cottage
10am /10.30am and United Reformed Church
Names to Jenny 362684 asap
Limited spaces available.
Friday 27th March 2009 Marion Slade Lecture
7.45 for 8pm “Below stairs at Hylands House”
A talk by Wendy Hibbit
At Great Stony
Sat 18th April Stand at Rotary Fair
Helpers required to run our stand
on a rota basis.
Names to Jenny please 362684
Also dates still to be confirmed for:
Visit to an Essex mill
High Street history walk in Ongar
Visit to Hylands House
Visit to Essex Police Museum