Ongar Millennium History Society
Ongar Millennium History Society
Well, seeing the holly leaf lower down on this page has given me a wake-
We have had another busy year as a society with all of our projects, meetings and outings, so all that is left to say is, “Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 2014”.
Jenny Main. Editor
Committee Members 2013-
Chairman: Felicitie Barnes
Vice Chair/Newsletter: Jenny Main
Treasurer: John Winslow
Speaker Sec.: Lorna Vaux
Bookings Sec:Wendy Thomas
Minute Sec: Gemma O’Donnell
Archive: Olive Glassington
Cttee member: David Green
NB Committee phone numbers can be found on the membership cards
David Thompson (1937-
David died peacefully at home on the night of 2nd November, aged 76. He will be greatly missed by his many friends and his family, and by the history society. He lived at Wren House in the centre of Ongar which was built in the seventeenth century adjacent to the eleventh century St. Martin’s Church. It is therefore no surprise that he became interested in local history. He had an enquiring mind and over the five years that I knew him was a leading light in reading and recording gravestones and memorials at all locations in Ongar, from the public cemetery to the many churches including, of course, St. Martin’s.
At St. Martin’s he was particularly fascinated by the gravestones commemorating Jane Cromwell, the cousin of Oliver Cromwell, and her son Horatio and contributed to an article regarding them that appeared in an edition of this newsletter. A painted panel that hangs in the church, called a hatchment, also intrigued him and the article that he jointly researched was also recently printed in this newsletter and a second article containing further findings will be published soon.
Appearing about now will be an OMHS occasional publication in the form of a booklet called “Ongar through the Centuries. 40 Little Known Facts” for which David was an editor and major contributor. I am so pleased that he saw and approved the proofs of the booklet but, sadly, missed its launch by just a few weeks.
David’s wife, Val, died several years ago but he leaves two daughters, Holly and Justine, and Steve his son. They were a close family and they will miss him so much. I will miss my weekly meetings with David when we pursued our common interest in researching aspects of local history and put the world to rights over lunch at his favourite meeting place, Café 154 on the Fyfield Road. With a lifetime spent in advertising, marketing and new product design, David had a sound knowledge of business which he expressed eloquently and persuasively. In addition he was an active member of UKIP and had informed views on all aspects of politics as well as life in general.
David, you were a keen and competent local historian but most of all a good friend.
David Thompson -
When David moved to Ongar, into Wren House in the very centre of the town, he brought with him a curiosity about the place he had moved into. He soon became a member of OMHS, and started his research on topics in the town. He made friends easily and loved to chat and therefore got the feel of the heartbeat of the town. He very generously gave his time to his and others’ interests.
He worked on St Martin’s and St Peter’s graveyards, and recorded the monuments inside the Churches with Keith Snow. He was interested and researched into the history of the houses along the High Street , including his own. And he and Keith, compiled the new booklet ‘Ongar Through the Centuries – 40 Little Known Facts’.
Thank you David for helping us to record the history of Ongar for future generations.
A Boodle tomb postscript back to top
At his London home in July 1835, Robert Mitford, a former judge in the Bengal civil service, wrote out his will in his own hand, apparently without the advice of a solicitor. The preamble did not follow the normal form but started by explaining that his last will had been destroyed because ‘circumstances in my family’ had completely changed his attitude to how he wished to bequeath his estate. In the eighth clause of his will, he directed his executors to construct a ‘suitable, handsome and durable monument’ for his interment on top of the Ongar castle mound. He further directed that the remains of his parents and his sister ‘now lying interred in a vault in the churchyard of Chipping Ongar’ should be moved to this new mausoleum, and that the sides of the castle mound should be planted with ‘cedar or cypress trees in a manner that may render it ornamental to the town’. While acknowledging that the ground was not consecrated, he failed to make it clear that he did not own the castle mound. Not surprisingly this added to the difficulties and delays of executing the will, and in the end Mitford’s intentions were never carried out due to the absolute refusal of the owner of the castle to allow the construction of a mausoleum on his property.
In 1784, Mitford’s mother, Mary, died at the age of 27 soon after, and possibly as a result of, his birth. Though she was not related in any way to the Chipping Ongar family, she was interred in the Boodle vault in the churchyard. The same vault contained the body of his father’s first wife, Sarah (née Boodle) who had died in 1776, as well as various other members of the family. However there is no evidence that either Mitford’s unnamed sister or his father (who died in Richmond, Surrey, in 1806) were buried there, so he must have been mistaken. Anyone who has struggled through the five closely written pages of his rambling will, bristling with hostility to various members of his family, would sense that it was written in a highly charged emotional state. It is certainly not in the measured and judicial language that might be expected of a retired judge. What was behind this unseemly outburst?
Mitford’s father, John, was a commander in the East India Company’s China division, wealthy enough in 1776 to describe himself as a gentleman. Mitford’s older brother (also John) was educated at Tonbridge grammar school, Kent and Oriel College, Oxford before taking holy orders, acquiring a comfortable Suffolk living at Benhall, and embarking on a distinguished literary career. Mitford himself was sent to the same grammar school but left two years before his older brother and went (or perhaps was sent) to Bengal at the age of 16. He spent his working life there, rising through the ranks of the civil service to the rank of second judge in the provincial court of appeal at Dhaka. It is possible that he resented the softer, more privileged, life of his brother, as service in India was tough and carried a significant risk of illness and early death. The two brothers also had equal shares of various properties in Yorkshire, Walthamstow, Surrey and London, probably inherited from their father. This too could have led to tensions between the two brothers, particularly as Mitford’s absence in India would have left their management solely in his brother’s hands.
Mitford’s will reveals a third – and perhaps most likely – reason for his bitter resentment. He had made loans, amounting to some £10,000, for the education of his brother’s son. According to the account given in the will, these loans had been used neither for their intended purpose, nor had they been repaid. He referred to his brother’s ‘evil habits and propensities’ as well as referring to his illegitimate offspring – a serious charge to level at a clergyman. In the second clause of his will, he emphasized at length, and in the most emphatic language, his intention to exclude his brother from any claim to his estate.
Mitford died on 21 April 1836 in Paris and it is not surprising that his unconventional will, with its two unwitnessed codicils and a completely erased sixth clause, created difficulties for his executors. It was not proved until 18 months later in the Probate Court of Canterbury, after the examination of two witnesses who were sworn to confirm that the will, and its erasures and codicils were in the handwriting of the testator.
Law reports in The Times newspaper give an incomplete account of what happened next. Mitford’s widow and other relatives initiated a suit to have the clause relating to the bequest to the government of Bengal declared void, and that relating to the mausoleum illegal. When it became clear that the mausoleum at Ongar could not be built, there was a lengthy dispute about the residue of Mitford’s estate which he had left to ‘the Government of Bengal for charitable beneficial and public works for the benefit of the native inhabitants of Dacca’ (now Dhaka in Bangladesh). The plaintiff’s arguments hinged on whether there was a proper party to receive this bequest, how its benefits could be confined only to the ‘native inhabitants’, and what was meant by ‘charitable beneficial and public works? Could it be used, for example, for ‘building an idolatrous temple’?
In 1841 the Lord Chancellor ruled that it was a good and charitable bequest and that it should be paid to the Governor General who was answerable to the Supreme Court at Calcutta for its proper application. But before this could happen there was another legal claim against Mitford’s estate from his niece (too convoluted to explain here) and this was not dismissed until 1848. It was not until 1854, some 18 years after Mitford’s death, that his bequest was finally used to build a hospital in Dhaka. This still exists and bears the name of the Mitford Hospital.
So, in the end, both the castle mound and the Boodle tomb were left undisturbed, and Dhaka gained a hospital.
Sally Lunn Buns back to top
On a recent visit to Bath, I came across the Sally Lunn Cafe and Museum. This brought to mind that Ongar had a Sally Lunn Cafe at one time which, anecdotally, is said to be named after the bun of that name.
Ongar's cafe was in a detached building situated at what is now the entrance to Stanley Place, in fact the estate is sometimes referred to as the 'Sally Lunn estate'. (OMHS has a picture of the cafe in its archive).
Sally Lunn (the anglicised version of her French name Soli Luyon) was a young Hugenot refugee who, in 1680, found employment with a baker close to the Abbey Church in the Spa City of Bath. She introduced the baker to the French brioche type breads, or buns that were later on to become famous and forever associated with her name, the building and indeed the City of Bath. The breads were light and delicious and were served at the Public Breakfasts and Afternoon Teas that were part of Bath's tradition. The recipe for the bun was rediscovered in the old building in the 1930's, in a secret cupboard over the ground floor corner fireplace, and is used today to make the buns served in the Bath cafe.*
The High Street research project may be able to find out if the cafe owner in Ongar chose the name of her business around this time or perhaps later after a visit to Bath! For those of you who have not tried the Sally Lunn bun, it looks like a large tea cake but is very light and can have savoury or sweet toppings. We chose the cinnamon butter topping and it was really delicious!
Elisabeth Barrett from her Wiltshire outpost!
* Information from 'The Story of Sally Lunn's House' issued by the museum. For the full story go to
Ongar Town Council grant back to top
OMHS wishes to acknowledge with grateful thanks the grant of £200 received from Ongar Town Council towards the cost of replacing, improving and maintaining the Society's website. The new website will be launched soon.
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-
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?”
Vacancy for Membership Secretary back to top
After 17 years as Membership Secretary for our Society I have decided to retire. Having given up driving I have found it rather difficult to give the task my full attention. As a result a vacancy has arisen.
It is a happy post as one gets to know all the 90 or so members. The records are computerised and it is not an onerous job. Quite the opposite in fact. Basically it is merely copying membership details from one year to the next.
Should anyone be interested in considering taking over, I will be happy to talk through the routines, explain the set up and act as guide for the next few months if needs be.
Please contact John Winslow on 362461 or
Dates for your diary back to top
December 4th Christmas Social at Ongar Town Council Offices, with thanks to Frank + Carol Knights
Members only please
February 6th The History of Poulton’s by Martin Shaw
7.45 for 8pm Zinc Arts Centre
Free to members
March 28th The 2014 Marion Slade Lecture, A talk by Ann Padfield, topic tbc
7.45 for 8pm Budworth Hall, Ongar.
Admisson by ticket – details soon.
Followed by wine and cheese.
Apologies the 2nd London walk has had to be postponed due to engineering works on the Central Line.
Contributions for next newsletter please!
The next newsletter will be produced in February 2014, so any articles to Jenny please by 22nd January. Thank you!
|Outings and Visits|
|Kneeler for St Martin's Church|
|Cemetary memorial inscriptions|
|Occupations 1600 to 1650|
|Then and Now|