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Ongar Millennium History Society

Ongar Millennium History Society


   February 2013

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OMHS Christmas party

Martyn  Lockwood Talk on Essex Murders

The Essex earthquake

Dating Buildings

Kitty Marshall and Ongar

Chipping Ongar and the 1670 hearth tax

Dates for your diary

I am limited by space this month so I can’t  ramble as usual. I have to say that I am sorry to be missing this year’s Marion Slade lecture due to a prior arrangement, but I’m sure it will be an interesting evening  for all of you, and of course there’s always a good spread after the lecture with cheese and wine for all! Enjoy...and of course enjoy this newsletter!

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

Website+:     Annice Hamilton  annicehamilton110@btinternet.com

Archive:        Olive Glassington              oliveglass@tiscali.co.uk

     NB Committee phone numbers can be found on the membership cards

OMHS Christmas party back to top

This must have been the coldest, iciest evening we've ever experienced for our Christmas get-togethers.  Snow is best seen on a Christmas card, not on the pavement. 

Nevertheless, the venue at the URC  hall was warm, the tables were laden with seasonal fare, the glasses were chinking away and the members who braved the elements had a happy jolly evening.

Jenny kept us busy with another of her quizzes - this time it was guessing film titles from the clues supplied. I was miles away from guessing ""One flew over the cuckoo's nest".  As no-one guessed all 40 titles correctly, the first prize of two weeks in Bermuda was held over until next year.  Unfortunately, the time on the tickets will have lapsed by then.

Many thanks to all those who did the shopping, preparation and tasks on the evening.  (It doesn't happen by magic).

John Winslow

Martyn  Lockwood Talk on Essex Murders back to top

OMHS members were given the opportunity to listen to tales of murder and intrigue in the Essex area during the 19th and 20th century. Martyn presented the audience with a variety of tales but one in particular, the life and death of Samuel Dougal, a fiendish murderer from the East End of London who ended life in the hangman’s noose. The talk was illustrated with pictures and an interesting evening was had by all those who enjoy tales of crime and murder!

Gemma O’Donnell

The Essex earthquake back to top

 Anne Brooks kept a packed hall spellbound talking of the effects of the 1884 earthquake.  Lasting just 3.5 seconds it occurred at 9.20am on 22nd April and was centred in the Abberton area, part of Colchester.  Two people died as a result.


Measuring 4.6 on the Richter Scale, it was felt as far away as Ostend and Boulogne as well as Cornwall and the Midlands. It caused considerable damage to churches, chapels, schools and houses.   Evidence of the damage can still be seen today, especially to churches.  Surprisingly, so little recorded local evidence has been found.   For instance, several churches had to have repairs or even a new steeple and plaques were attached celebrating the completion of the work, but only one mentions it had to be done as the result of the earthquake. It has been become known as the "secret earthquake".

 A 3ft tsunami (a body of water moving at speed) followed, travelling along the Blackwater  moving very dirty water into the Thames where boats were sunk, upturned or beached. Why did it happen?  Could it be that the huge Abberton Reservoir had an effect on the sub soil?  The reservoir is being enlarged !  Will it happen again?  Who knows?

John Winslow

Dating Buildings back to top

A talk by Michael Leach to the OMHS House History group 24th April 2012

Generally dating buildings is a thorny problem due to the alterations that have been made since they were first constructed. Basic principles to work on are that all buildings in Ongar, up to the arrival of the railway, are timber-framed. Brick fronts were added to make older buildings look more modern. Ongar House, for example, has a much older timber-frame hidden behind its 19th century brick facade. A careful look at the side of a brick fronted building will usually indicate whether there is an older structure behind. The only pre-railway brick building is The King’s Head – a high status building built in 1697. Though early chimneys were timber framed (very few survive for very obvious reasons!) brick was always used from the late 16th century onwards. The timber framed former Baugh’s building has an early brick built chimney stack.

Local brick is red (or blue if overfired) in colour, and was used right through the 18th century. In the 19th century bricks became fashionable– Greylands built in 1843 is a fine example with a particularly pale brick used on the frontage, and the cheaper yellow ‘stocks’ on the side where it is less visible. Ongar brickworks was near the gas works and waste clinker was added to the brick clay to alter the colour to a browny yellow.  Many local villages had their own brickworks. It was a seasonal activity – the clay was dug in the autumn and left to be weathered by the frost ready for the next spring when the clay would be thrown into moulds. Being seasonal, it was often combined with agriculture or other activities. There were brickworks at Fyfield, Moreton, North Weald and Ongar. They were often only worked intermittently, and brought back into use when a house was being built. Bulmer Brickworks in North West Essex is the last survivor of this industry in Essex.

Roof timbers are often the best indicator of the original date of a building. The Manor House, behind Manor Square and externally of unremarkable early 20th century appearance, has a medieval roof. Chimneys are often the oldest feature which can be seen from outside a property but many, if not all, will have been substantially rebuilt in the past. Sometimes the back of a building is useful for dating, as it was often left unimproved; the only drawback is that extensions to the rear were often added to provide extra space, in which case the back of the building will be more recent than the front. Timber jointing can often be dated very accurately by experts, and sometimes dates will be found cut into the timbers, frame or roof. Central House, for example, has a dated tie beam in the roof.

Carpenters used green unseasoned wood which is easier to work – oak or elm – and the wood was allowed to season in situ. This resulted in some shrinkage, often causing a slight sag or undulation, particularly in the roof. Such defects often give a clue that there is an older building hiding inside a more recent exterior, and there are many examples of this up and down the High Street. The 1642 building at the corner of St Martin’s Mews shows an excessive amount of movement, probably due to the failure of a tie beam at roof level. The main upright house timbers were slotted into a horizontal beam laid on the ground; this would eventually rot, causing the building to subside. This was often remedied by cutting the rotten uprights back to sound timber and supporting a new ground beam on a low brick wall (Greensted church is an obvious example).

Roof coverings tended to be clay tiles up till the 19th century. These required a pitch of 450 or more. Cheaper transport (the Chelmer navigation to Chelmsford from the end of the 18th century, and the railway in 1865) made Welsh slate available. Slate enabled the pitch to be reduced to 250 , and this shallower pitched roof could be hidden away behind a parapet. Though an old roof could be rebuilt to  lower pitch, this was a major job, rarely undertaken, so the pitch of the roof often indicates if the building dates from the 18th century or earlier, or from the 19th century. The railway different types of non-local brick and other materials to be brought in. Examples imported from the Midlands and elsewhere can be seen in the Budworth Hall and Essex House.

Glass was expensive up to the beginning of the 18th century, hence small panes of glass were leaded together.  Until the 19th century window glass was not absolutely flat and had marked distortions due to the way it was manufactured. This involved spinning a lump of molten glass on the end of a rod into a flat disc which was then cut up into panes. This led to the formation of a central “bullseye” which was originally thrown away but, in the early decades of the 20th century, it became a popular feature and was made artificially in a mould, long after spun sheet glass had become obsolete.

In the 19th century the glassmaker would blow the molten glass into a long cylinder and while still soft and flexible it would be cut along the length of the cylinder and laid out flat to set. This was known as crown glass. It had no ripples but had a slight curve to it and was used for sash windows. There are many examples of this glass in the High Street, though sadly many have been lost from needless window replacement.  Window tax was prevalent between 1690 and 1840, so some windows were bricked up to avoid this duty. But the 18th century it was all about symmetry; windows were spaced regularly on house frontages. If they do not appear to be regular, there may be an older timber frame behind the facade, with the structural beams preventing the regular positioning of the later windows. Stapleford Tawney rectory is a good example.

Doors are difficult to date and most have been replaced by modern imitations or plastic replicas. Medieval doors were vertical planks attached to two horizontal bars and a diagonal brace, secured by bent-over nails. Examples will be found in local churches. By the 18th century doors had moulded panels rebated into the timber frame, a technique which has persisted to the present, even in plastic replica!

A characteristic of Victorian buildings is the use of multicoloured brickwork, or brickwork with bands of stone. Much cheaper transport by railway made this possible. The Budworth Hall with its bands of different  coloured brick and stone, Essex House and St Peter’s church, Shelley are typical examples of Victorian polychromy.

Perhaps the most important thing when trying to date a building is to look at the roof, the chimneys, the sides and the back of the building. Interiors are often not very helpful, as they may only show the date of the latest of many make-overs during the lifetime of the building. And always remember that every building has had numerous changes, extensions, alterations and improvements each partially – but not necessarily entirely – concealing the last.

Michael Leach

Kitty Marshall and Ongar back to top

In the May 2012 edition of the Newsletter an article was published regarding the St. Martin’s choir stalls dedicated to Emmeline Pankhurst, the suffragette. It was established that “Kitty” Marshall was the prime mover in arranging the finance and installation of the stalls. Subsequently it was decided to investigate Mrs Marshall more fully and establish her connection with Ongar.

She was born Emily Katherine Jacques in 1871 the daughter of Rev. Kinton Jacques rector of St. Bartholomew’s, Westhoughton,  Lancashire,  and his wife Caroline Augusta (née Baldwin) also a vicar’s daughter. Emily Katherine had a strong creative instinct and went on to be an accomplished artist, weaver and wood carver. We may also assume she was a person of strong views and a determined character as we shall see.

On April 7th 1896 she married Hugh Earnshaw Finch BA, at St. James’ Church, Brindle, whose father was a clerk in holy orders. Mr Finch proved to be a philanderer and after four years Kitty decided to do something about it and in January 1901 she filed for divorce. In England the divorce laws then required a man to prove unfaithfulness in his wife, a wife however had to prove physical cruelty as well or else desertion and non support. We can imagine the difficulties she faced. In those times divorce was very much frowned upon, particularly in middle class society, and in addition coming from such a strong religious background, there might well have been even more intense resistance. Nevertheless the decree absolute was granted on November 4th 1901.

Three years later on June 16th 1904 she married Arthur Edward Willoughby Marshall by licence at the parish church of St. Matthew’s, Hammersmith. Arthur Marshall was a solicitor and he too was sympathetic to the women’s suffrage cause. He represented the suffragettes in court on several occasions.

In 1906 Kitty attended her first pro suffrage meeting and went on to join the Women’s Social & Political Union (WSPU).She became a staunch supporter and good friend of Emmeline Pankhurst. This is evidenced by the fact the Marshalls went on holiday with Emmeline Pankhurst to Gibraltar in 1927, returning to London on April 22nd aboard the “Narkunda”.

She was also quite a militant member of the WSPU being imprisoned three times. On one occasion in November 1910 she was sent to prison for throwing potatoes at the fanlight over the front door of the Home Secretary’s official residence in Downing Street. Winston Churchill was Home Secretary at the time.

While in prison Kitty put her time and artistic skills to good use by creating and making a pack of playing cards. The cards and also a silver-chain necklace that belonged to Kitty are now in the Museum of London. On the necklace are 3 pendants with her name and period of imprisonment engraved on one side and the wing and cell numbers on the reverse.

By 1918 the principal suffragette battle was won with women over 30 and women over 21 who owned property being granted the vote. It was at this time that Kitty and Arthur were living in “ The Old House”102 High Street Ongar (ref. Electoral roll 1918) first as tenants, and later as owners, having bought it from Mr Charles Foster in 1928. They subsequently sold the house to Mr Laurie in1934. During these years in Ongar the Marshall’s remained close friends with Emmeline as their holiday together in Gibraltar testifies. Given Kitty’s strong church background it can be fairly assumed that during her time in Ongar she attended church at St. Martins. In fact according to the vestry minutes of St. Martins dated 26 April 1918 Mr and Mrs Marshall were named as sidesman and sideswoman respectively. At the same meeting Mrs Marshall was also appointed to the role of secretary in succession to Mr Mihill.

She also continued her artistic endeavours and in his   “Reminiscences of Ongar High Street” published in 1992, Fred Powell recalls that she was known for her sketching and painting around Ongar. It is unfortunate that we do not have any references of her work. Perhaps she took it all with her when she moved to Sible Hedingham where she died in 1947 aged 77.

Kathy Wenborne.

with thanks to David and Keith for the editing.

Chipping Ongar and the 1670 hearth tax back to top

In 2012 the British Record Society (BRS) published its latest volume on the hearth tax, the long awaited one that covers Essex. Hearth tax was introduced in 1662 to meet Charles II’s desperate need for cash, and was deeply resented because the counting of hearths was regarded as unprecedented invasion of privacy. The tax (one shilling twice a year on each hearth, to be paid by the occupant) failed to produce anything like the expected yield, and four years later its collection was privatised in the hope of improving the yield. The result, not surprisingly, was the enrichment of the private individuals concerned, although there was also an increased income for the crown. From 1669 to 1674, the government, in the hope of reaping these profits for the crown, decided to cut out the private sector and appointed official receivers to be responsible for collecting the tax.  But within a few years, it was privatised again and was to remain so until the final abolition of the tax in 1689.

The problems of collecting the tax were compounded by poorly drafted legislation, leading to uncertainties and disputes about which householders were exempt. Broadly, anyone in receipt of parish benefits, or occupying a property having an annual value of twenty shillings or less, was exempt. The latter group were required to obtain a certificate (renewable annually) signed by their local minister and one churchwarden. Those liable to the tax, but refusing to pay, could have their chattels distrained.

The 1670 returns for Essex were selected by the BRS as they give more detail than other surviving returns. Each householder was named, and his or her number of hearths listed in three separate categories – those liable to pay, those exempt, and those who had obtained certificates. Occasionally other notes were included, and one of these for Chipping Ongar indicated that Elizabeth Gouldesburgh had not paid for 6 hearths at the castle, though elsewhere it was clear that ‘widow Gouldesburgh’ had paid on 10 hearths. There can be little doubt that it was one and the same woman. Her husband Thomas had died 6 years earlier, leaving the widow Elizabeth; all his heirs were under age in 1670. Perhaps his widow paid for ten hearths, but was in dispute about the other six.

The largest house in the parish, occupied by (?Nicholas) Allexander, gentleman, had 20 hearths; this was probably what is now known as the White House. The next largest, at eleven hearths, was one of Ongar’s inns (George Stokes, the occupant, is known from other sources to have been an ‘innholder’). It is likely that all, or most, of the small number of households with more than five hearths were inns, and some individuals can be positively identified as innholders, namely William Tabor and William Lacey (8 hearths each), Joshua Beard (7 hearths), William Stanes (5 hearths, probably at ‘ye Lion’) and Robert Staines (4 hearths). Presumably the extra hearths represented heated rooms for guests. One puzzle is an 8 hearth house occupied by Mr ‘Cuttler’, possibly another large inn. He was probably the Francis Cutler who was married in Ongar in January 1670 but his name has left no other mark on the records. Another anomaly is a 5 hearth house occupied by John Hancock, a much larger establishment than might be expected of someone who was a barber by trade. The schoolhouse (presumably in one of the King’s Trust cottages) had two hearths but appears to have defaulted on payment, as the return noted that there was nothing worth distraining.

Domestic fires were something of a luxury in the 1670s, as the price of wood had risen sharply due to the loss of forest, and the cheaper alternative fuel, coal, was not yet readily available.  It was unusual for domestic buildings to have a large number of hearths. More than 2/3 of the Ongar households had either one hearth or two. Those with two (about 1/3 of all the houses in the parish) may have had two heated rooms (hall and parlour) or one heated room and an outside kitchen, a common precaution in contemporary towns, as it was a sensible and practical way of reducing the fire risk to one’s own and adjoining buildings.

Houses with only one hearth comprised just over 1/3 of all households in the town and, as would be expected, are found mainly (but not exclusively) in the 40% who were either too poor to pay, or exempt by certificate. The occupations of some of those who paid can be identified from other documents, but those at the poorer end of the spectrum are more difficult to find. Amongst those that can be identified were two blacksmiths (Henry Lacey and Edward Phipps), one ‘practitioner in physic’ (William Godfrey), and a scattering of forgotten trades such as a collar maker (probably horse rather than human!), a hatter and a wool comber, as well as more familiar ones such as a baker, a grocer and at least two carpenters.

In all there were 95 households and, using a multiplier of 4.3, the population of the parish can be roughly estimated at a little over 400 souls. Though one could wish for more detail in the hearth tax returns, it is the nearest we can get to a full census until 1841, and it provides a fleeting and tantalizing glimpse of the town 350 years ago.    

Michael Leach  

Dates for your diary back to top

Friday 22nd March  Marion Slade Lecture

7.45 for 8pm  A talk on Dendrochronology (dating wood)

By Dr Martin Bridges

Essex Studio, Zinc Arts Centre

Tuesday 30th April A day in Waltham Abbey

10.15am Visit EFDC Museum

2.15pm Guided tour of Abbey

Sunday 9th June  A walk along the South Bank – details to follow

Contributions for next newsletter please!

The next newsletter will be produced in May 2013, so any articles to Jenny please by 22nd April. Thank you!