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Ongar Millennium History Society

Ongar Millennium History Society


August 2013

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Obituary: Robert Brooks

Can you help? Queries from the last newsletter

Visit to the South Bank

What goes around comes around…

An Attractive Gabled Country Residence in a ‘Sporting District’

Crime in Ongar

An afternoon of nostalgia

Dates for the diary

Where has the summer gone? September will soon be upon us, and our history meetings will be starting up again. We are a bit behind in setting dates this year due to committee members’ holidays, but you will be informed in plenty of time by John’s helpful Notice Board. We have some interesting things lined up for you all, two of which are already confirmed – a walk along the backlands of our High Street and our AGM – see forthcoming events for details.

We are also working on getting our website revamped and up to date, so we are working hard on your behalf. Enjoy the rest of the summer and hopefully a warm autumn.

Jenny Main, Editor

Committee Members 2012-2013

Chairman:  Felicitie Barnes   bwthynbach.flis@btinternet.com  

Vice Chair/Newsletter: Jenny Main jenny.main@ntlworld.com

Treasurer:  John Winslow           johnwinslow@live.co.uk

Speaker Sec.: Lorna Vaux                     lornavaux5@gmail.com

Bookings Sec Wendy Thomas                wthomas545@aol.com

Minute Sec:   Gemma O’Donnell  gemma_odonnell1@hotmail.com

Archive:        Olive Glassington              oliveglass@tiscali.co.uk

     NB Committee phone numbers can be found on the membership cards

Obituary: Robert Brooks back to top

We were very sad to learn that Robert Brooks had passed away earlier this year.  He and his wife, Anne, were members of OMHS from our earliest days and took an interest in our development and growth.  

He attended many of our numerous events over the years, and from time to time not only gave talks to our members but led the occasional walk too.  Always a pleasure to have a chat with, he will be sadly missed.

John Winslow

Ed’s note: Sincere apologies for the delay for this tardy item, but news reached us too late for the last newsletter.

Can you help? Queries from the last newsletter. back to top

Answers to Derek Birch’s queries from Michael Leach:

I think Derek is right about the coat of arms being that of the lord of the manor. Richard de Lucie, owner of Ongar castle and justiciar to Henry II, had three fish (pike otherwise called luces - heralds love puns!) facing head upwards on his coat of arms. I am not sure about the cross crosslets, which might have been added by the pottery to make it look more decorative, though Richard's son Godfrey became bishop of Winchester and might, I suppose, have added the crosses to reflect his ecclesiastical office. I don't have any information about the fox and pheasant.

I can't identify the photo but there is a Waterman's End in Little Laver (near the boundary with Matching), so there might be a farm of that name in that parish (though I can't spot it on the map).

Gemma O’Donnell also identified the postcard as Waterman’s Farm in Matching Green. Thank you.

Please send any other queries you may have to jenny.main@ntlworld.com , marked Can you help? and we will see if any of our members can help you.

Ed’s Note: Thank you to both Michael and Gemma for their replies.

Visit to the South Bank back to top

Several members took the tube to the Monument on a Sunday morning in June to start our visit to the historic South Bank in London.

After deliberating whether to climb to the top of the Monument (we didn't!), we strolled over London Bridge, saw The Shard in all its outstanding architectural glory (?), and visited Southwark Cathedral.  Eventually we took the route alongside the Thames, where we saw the forbidding Clink Prison, called into the London Malt Whisky Centre (£14,500 a bottle) and visited Shakespeare's Globe.  The last port of call was Tate Modern.  The displays produced some very mixed views! 

A delightful day with tales along the way and the Thames flowing strongly towards high tide. After four or so hours mostly on our feet and by now most of us feeling weary, we crossed the Millennium Bridge and enjoyed a meal and a glass of wine before making our way home. The second half of this tour will follow later in the year.

John Winslow

What goes around comes around… back to top

I stumbled across this poem in our archives and thought it needed to be shared! It was originally from The Loughtonian (the Loughton Grammar School Magazine, dated July 1928).

Elegy upon Ongar High Street

They took a little gravel,

And they took a little tar,

With various ingredients,

Imported from afar.

They hammered it and rolled it,

And when they went away,

They said they had a high-street,

That would last for many a day.

But they came with picks and smote it,

To lay a water main,

And then they called the workmen,

To put it back again.

To lay a big new gas-pipe,

They took it up once more,

And then they put it back again,

Just where it was before.

Oh, the high street’s full of furrows,

There are patches everywhere,

You would like to ride upon it,

But it’s seldom that you dare.

It’s wonderful! Our High Street,

A credit to the town,

They’re always taking of it up,

Or putting of it down.

And now the road to Fyfield,

Where Horsnail rides each day,

They’re digging up the gravel,

Along the permanent way.

They’ll make a grand new roadway,

With gravel and with tar,

But soon they’ll take it up again

It’s lovely surface mar.

And very soon will Horsnail

Experience many a jar,

And wish to Ongar Station,

The way was not so far.

Then our wonderful surveyors,

Calling workmen from afar,

Will make the roadway up again,

With gravel and with tar.

Jenny Main  

Ed’s note: Hope you enjoyed it as much as I did!

An Attractive Gabled Country Residence in a ‘Sporting District’ Can you guess which Victorian house this advertisement from 1920 referred to? back to top

The house was the prosaically but aptly named ‘The Gables’ which stood on the Stondon Road between Ongar and Hallsford bridge. Nowadays, although it is much reduced in size. it bears the rather more lordly title of ‘Knowlton Hall’ and is still an imposing sight.

The Gables was built at the behest of a member of the Gibson family. The earliest record of a Gibson in Ongar is of William who at the time of the 1841 census was described as being a solicitor and Clerk of the Peace. In the latter role he was responsible for recording the proceedings of the Quarter Sessions and the Lieutenancy.

He lived with his wife Eliza and five children, three of whom were born in Ongar, in the High St. One of his sons, Henry, became an articled clerk in his father’s firm and, once he qualified as a solicitor, also became a clerk of the peace

In the 1871 census Henry, aged 39, was living at White House, High Street, Chipping Ongar with his wife, three daughters, a son and several servants.

Henry died in 1904 and is commemorated by a plaque in St Martin’s church which says: In memory of Henry Gibson, solicitor, clerk of the peace for the county of Essex for 44 years a resident in and a benefactor to this parish and a regular worshipper in this church who died on December 19th 1904.This tablet is erected by subscription as a mark of the esteem in which he was held by his neighbours and friends ‘the memory of the just is blessed’.


According to the plaque Henry, who died at the age of 72, only spent 44 years in the parish which seems to indicate that either he lived elsewhere for some of his life or the engraver made a mistake on the inscription.  

Henry’s only son Herbert must have been a wealthy man as it was he who, in 1887, commissioned  J.P. Pritchett a Darlington architect to draw up plans for the large stylish house which became known as ‘The Gables’.  These were published in the Building News the following year.

It seems strange that Herbert went all the way to Yorkshire to find an architect but Mr Pritchett did have links to the locality via the illustrious Taylor family from Stanford Rivers.

James Piggot Pritchett was a Congregational Deacon and York based architect. He trained with James Medland Taylor and his brother Henry who were sons of Elizabeth Medland and Isaac Taylor. So it is possible that Herbert met Pritchett at the Taylor’s house or that he was recommended to Herbert by the family.

Herbert lived in the house for some time and additions were made to the original structure during the years 1891 to 1894. Later Herbert moved to Hutton before settling in Surrey. The 1911 census shows the house as being owned by Henry Gordon, a Colonel in the Indian Army. He died in 1920 and it was then that the advertisement mentioned at the beginning of this article appeared.

The Sale Catalogue which can be found in the Essex Record Office describes the house as being of attractive appearance, built of red brick with hanging tiles and a tiled roof. The gables that gave the building its name were huge. One was hipped and the other was decorated with decoratively carved barge boards. Apparently it was well arranged inside with a useful basement wine cellar.  Outside was a small farmery with rich pastures. There were several cowsheds, a knife house, an earth closet and a dairy.  Leisure pursuits were catered for by the provision of loose boxes, harness rooms, a tennis court and croquet lawn, although presumably the sporting district mentioned in the advertisement referred to the opportunity to hunt, shoot and fish nearby rather than the playing of ball games.

The sale led to the Gables having a new role because it was bought by The Mary McArthur Trust which had been set up in 1822 to give ‘tired working women respite’ and became the trust’s first holiday home. It must have been satisfying to many local people to know that this house designed and lived in by those from the middle class could now be enjoyed by members of the class who had built it.

The wealthy still had a valuable part to play in the house’s future though, for when Queen Mary visited the Home in July 1934 she received purses from many well off Ongar residents as their generous contribution towards the good work of the Trust.

A picture of the women “resting” whilst staying at the Gables:

“A woman’s work is never done!”

According to Mrs Emily Taylor wife of Eric Taylor The Gables was also used as a nurses’ retirement home, but by the early 1950’s with the welfare state becoming well established there was less need for charitable homes and the Gables was sold to Eric Taylor, who had been an apprentice with Noble and Taylor, a well known local building firm. He got permission to build houses there and reserved one plot for himself and his family. Part of the building was knocked down.

The area in which The Gables stood had not been built on until relatively late in Ongar’s history, possibly because of the difficulty of travelling over the river Roding. The earliest crossing on the Stondon road was a ford which was described as dangerous.  The 1777 Chapman and Andre map names the crossing as, “All Ford”. In 1775 a petition was made requesting that a bridge be built.

The first bridge was probably a timber one and many complaints about its poor state of repair and reports of accidents were recorded over the years. The present and far safer structure called Hallsford Bridge was built in 1934.

Some brave souls did settle in the area before the first bridge was built. New House Farm which also appears on the 1777 Chapman and Andre map dates back to around 1600.  Later wealthy London merchants looking for homes away from the smoke and smells of the city had houses built along the Stondon road and in 1680 Sir John Houblon, the first governor of The Bank of England bought New House.  Let’s hope he didn’t raid the bank’s vaults to pay for it. These early inhabitants wouldn’t have risked their lives and money bags by trying to cross the ford but would have taken the alternative route along the London road for their journey to work.  We don’t know if the residents of The Gables did the same but at least they would have had a bridge, even if it was somewhat rickety, to help them cross the river if they wanted to.

The Gables was not the only important Victorian building to be found in Ongar. A Police Station, now demolished, was built in 1855, and the Railway station was erected in 1865, followed by Budworth Hall in 1886. In 1896 the Council House was built and today over a hundred years later our town has a fine array of homes, shops and offices dating from well before, during, and after Queen Victoria’s reign.

Gemma O’Donnell

Crime in Ongar back to top


Submitted by Kathy Wenborne

An afternoon of nostalgia back to top

A very happy time was spent with members enjoying the luxury of afternoon tea and cakes at the Ongar Ritz* and a stroll down Memory Lane. Opening with some questions about an old Ongar now lost, members were able to learn something about our immediate environment and then generally recalled the days not so long ago which now seem out of reach. Just think about the days before supermarkets  and everything wrapped in plastic, and buying your groceries from the corner shop.  It's enough to give the ‘elf 'n' safety’  inspectors of today apoplexy!

After a short break we saw a DVD on "The Way We Were" based on life in 1953, the year of the Queen's Coronation, ending with the recollections of those actually taking part in the ceremony and highlights of the Coronation itself.  Many thanks to David Welford for setting up and masterminding the technical bits.

*This establishment was previously known as the Ongar Sports and Social Club, in Love Lane.

John Winslow

Dates for the diary back to top

Thurs 12th Sept.   A walk along the backs of Ongar High Street

Led by Michael Leach. Meet at Library 6.30pm Names to Jenny please – max. 25 places

Wed 2nd Oct   OMHS AGM followed by a film show

7.45 for 8pm    Ongar library.

Forthcoming events  (Dates to be confirmed)

 St Martin’s church tour

 EOR talk

 London walk, part 2

 Christmas Party

Contributions for next newsletter please!

The next newsletter will be produced in November 2013, so any articles to Jenny please by 29th October. Thank you!