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Ongar Millennium History Society

Ongar Millennium History Society


November 2012

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Ann Roberts

Brains of Ongar 2012

The History of Great Stony


AGM Chairperson’s report

Songs that won the war

You have gone a little too far and some apology is needed: the saga of the enlargement of St Martin’s church in 1883

Library display

Dates for your diary

Well here we are approaching the festive season again after another busy year for OMHS. Felicitie’s annual report will remind you all of the projects and events we have organised and taken part in over the year. The next event for this year is our Christmas social for members–this year at a new venue, the United Reformed Church Hall. We hope you will all be able to join us for drinks and nibbles, plus a few teasers to test the little grey cells!

Thank you for supporting our events and working on our various projects this year. All that is left for me now is to wish you all a very Happy Christmas and a healthy New Year.

Jenny Main, Editor back to top

Committee Members 2011-2012

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

Ann Roberts back to top

We were sorry to hear of the recent death of Ann who was an active member of the community.  She was a driver for the library service for the house bound and for Ongar and Villages Voluntary Care.

As a long standing member of OMHS she was keenly interested in the history of Ongar and was involved in the St Martin’s kneeler project.  She joined the working parties at the Kings Trust Centre and later kindly hosted two groups each week at her home. She was also one of the people featured in the OMHS book on World War Two memories.

We extend our condolences to her friends and family.

Wendy Thomas and Felicitie Barnes

Ed’s Note: We also send our condolences to OMHS member Marie Brown on the sudden death of her husband, Bob.

Brains of Ongar 2012 back to top

The 15th annual BOO Quiz was held at the end of October in High Ongar Village Hall.

For an unprecedented third time the winner was the Ongar Labour Party who already have their name inscribed on the shield for 1999 and 2009.

The winner of this ever popular event can only keep half the net proceeds of the evening (not determined at time of writing) with the other half going to the charity of the winner's choice which this year is the Herts and Esssex Air Ambulance Trust.

Despite the enthusiasm and determination of your OMHS team, they could only manage a joint third. Their name last appeared on the shield in 2008 so it really is about time they pulled up their socks!

Our grateful thanks go not only to the question master John Turnbull and his good lady Jan, who was the scorer, but also to Jenny Main who largely put together this very successful evening.

John Winslow

The History of Great Stony back to top

Built between 1902 and 1905, Hackney Homes (later Great Stony School) was designed as a self-contained community of ‘cottage homes’ for the accommodation of up to 300 children taken into the guardianship of Hackney Council under the provisions of the 1899 Poor Law.

The children lived and were educated on site. When the Homes were built the cottages were made to accommodate 40 children in single sex houses. By 1964 the cottages accommodated 30 children and this number was later cut to 20 in the 1970s with a mixed sex intake.

In the 1950s it was renamed Great Stony School and used as a school for the education of children with learning difficulties. It was administered by the Inner London Education Authority until that was abolished and it was then returned to the Borough of Hackney until it closed in 1994, with the site being sold in 1998.

Bowes House, an annexe to the school across the road, was added to give greater flexibility with the range of pupils. This annexe was used at various times for children with severe learning difficulties, infant age children, or school leavers of ages 16-18.

On the main site to accommodate children there were 6 cottages.  In each cottage there were house parents and ancillary staff for cleaning and cooking. The rest of the ancillary staff came in daily.  There was staff for the school office, storemen, ladies in the sewing room, in the laundry, nurses, gardeners, handymen, teaching assistants and a shoe mender. There was almost as many staff as children.

The school was a separate unit, and there was some teacher staff accommodation on site.

The children were supported by other professionals.   The local doctor had a surgery. Other visitors included educationalists, psychologists, social workers, the dentist and local rectors of all faiths.

Many local people were involved with the Friends of Great Stony and took on the role of surrogate parents with some of the children.  Governors were often locals. The Guides and Brownies were run by local people. There was a strong connection with the Variety Club of Great Britain.

Felicitie Barnes

Ed’s note: For further information see Aspects of the History of Ongar

       publ 1999,  ISBN 0 9535048 0 8  chapter 16

OMHS AGM back to top

We had a good turnout for the OMHS AGM at Ongar Library on 19th September. The business meeting was carried out in the usual manner and the committee was re-elected en bloc.

After a short break for refreshments Reverend Howden showed the film he had made about Father Thomas Byles from St Helen’s Church in Ongar who had travelled on the Titanic in 1912. The film told a family story around his journey, about his reasons for going and the repercussions to his family afterwards.  Much research had gone into the making of the film.  OMHS was given a copy for the our archives.

Felicitie Barnes   

AGM Chairperson’s report back to top

Good evening.  It’s good to see you all again. I would like to present my chairperson’s report on the year just past, regarding the activities of the Ongar Millennium History Society

First I wish to record my appreciation for the support I have received from the other committee members, and it was good to welcome Lorna, Gemma and Annice on to the committee. Without the committee’s enthusiasm, and good will, and sense of humour the job would be so much more difficult.  I must also pay credit to all you members who have been willing to share your expertise and your interests and to give up your time.  You have shown what a proactive bunch we are!

We hope you have all enjoyed the programme for the last year.  As always we try to concentrate on local topics. This year there has been:- The community of Stanford Rivers as a walk and a talk;  David Livingstone’s life and Ongar connections and the United Reformed Church in Ongar; The Buxtons, an old Essex Family; Ongar on film in the 1950s; and two visits to Hill Hall to accommodate all who wanted to go.  

Some of the events we have organised, particularly visits out, have not had much support. This has been disappointing because of all the work that goes into organising such events. We need to know the reasons of the poor attendance and what we should or shouldn’t plan for the future. Transport should not be a problem. It can always be shared.  We can also use the community bus as we now have Alec Hague who is an OMHS member, as a driver.

We have entertained ourselves at the Xmas social and had a presence at the Jubilee celebrations and the Ongar Town Council Annual Meeting. We have established good relationships with other organisations during the course of the year.  I attended the unveiling of the impressive Memorial Wall at the new Ongar Health Centre on your behalf.  We were present at the opening of Zinc and of the Epping Ongar Railway.

We unveiled two new blue plaques. The first at Zinc, on the old Great Stony building, unveiled by the Chief Executive of Zinc, Jeff Banks and Ron Barnes, the ex-headmaster of Great Stony School. We managed to collect together an audience of about 30 local people with connections to the former school. The other plaque was at Ongar Station on April 7th to commemorate Father Thomas Byles leaving to travel on the ill fated Titanic. Again there was an invited audience. Another blue plaque was going to be put on the outside of the Presbytery, but unfortunately we have come up against bureaucracy, so watch this space.

Our projects are flourishing. The website is active. There has been progress with the House History project, with thanks to Michael for his help and advice. The updating of the Ongar Millennium Walk leaflet is now in the hands of a designer. Our Millennium Walk was incorporated into the booklet produced by EOR for their Walk Sunday. A book has been printed of the Memorial Inscriptions for St Martin’s and is now in the church for reference purposes.

We seem to come up against insurmountable barriers like ‘where and how’ when  we try to progress towards a museum or archive for Ongar . We have visited such premises in other communities and think that if they can do it why can’t we? We try to keep the pressure for support on Ongar Town Council because this is something we feel is so important to the town and for future generations. We have had a meeting with the United Reformed Church because they are hoping to extend their premises, but this will not happen in the very near future. Hopefully some premises will become available and between us we will be able to put together a strong case. If any of you can help in any capacity please come forward.

On this Saturday at 10.30 am we have a visit planned to Great Stony Park as you will have seen in the newsletter. We have been given permission to visit from the Residents’ Association. We hope for good weather as it will all be outside in the open. If you are coming and we do have room for more, I would suggest you bring umbrellas –for sun or rain! On the same day OMHS will be supporting the Rotary Community Day. Frank Knights will be there on our behalf with his collection of historical coins and artefacts.

We have lost some dear friends this year. Angela Root and Ann Roberts were both very involved with the St Martin’s kneeler project. We thank them and will miss them.

Don’t forget that on October 5th,  James Bettley, a Victorian architect will talk at St Martin’s Church on the battle with the authorities to establish a further aisle to accommodate the pupils of Ongar Grammar School. We are collaborating with the Friends of St Martin and St Peter, and names can be given to John for tickets tonight.

Two more dates for your diaries – Martyn Lockwood will talk to us on Nov 7th on the grizzly subject of Essex Murders, and the Xmas Social is on Wednesday December 5th, at a new venue for us, the United Reformed Church Hall.

Please keep us informed about what you would like to listen to or do, so we can get our programme right. Thank you for your attention.

Felicitie Barnes

Songs that won the war back to top

On a recent autumn afternoon about 20 members gathered at the Love Lane Sports and Social Club for a trip down memory lane to see the film  "Songs That Won The War" released by the Royal British Legion.

Those present were able to sing along with many of the artists from the war years 1939-1945, including Gracie Fields, Flanagan and Allen, George Formby, The Andrew Sisters and many others all interspersed with short film clips from those years - thousands of conscripted troops saying farewell at London Termini or child evacuees being put on trains to get them out of London - with background songs of "Roll out the Barrel" and "Wish me luck as you wave me goodbye" etc.

It was a truly nostalgic couple of hours with members remembering the words of songs they'd forgotten about these last 60 years or so!

Tea and delicious cakes were served (ration books not needed).  Also, many thanks to David Welford for supplying equipment and organising the cables and connexions.

John Winslow

NB.....If there is sufficient demand I'll arrange a second performance. Contact John on 362461

You have gone a little too far and some apology is needed: the saga of the enlargement of St Martin’s church in 1883 back to top

For well over a century Chipping Ongar’s parish church was too small for the growing population of the town. The surviving eighteenth century gallery is the most obvious evidence of this but other re-orderings, such as the closure of the north nave door and the formation of a new entrance at the west end, were later attempts to squeeze in a few extra pew spaces. In 1832 Richard Noble installed enclosed box pews, but these in turn were swept away thirty years later and replaced by the present benches. In 1877 additional seating was provided in the gallery after the organ was moved from there to the north side of the chancel.

On his appointment as rector in 1878, Rev. James Tanner (1834-1914)  soon realised that many who should be attending his church were unable to do so. The population of the town had increased by 50% between 1801 and 1881 and there were simply not enough seats, particularly for what he described as the ‘industrial classes’. After several years of fund raising, St James’ church in Marden Ash was completed in 1882 and Tanner may have seen this as an unwelcome upstart. Other competition for Sunday worship came from the Congregational chapel (extended in 1865) and St Helen’s Catholic church (built in 1868-9). It is probably that most or all of these factors stimulated the parishioners to raise the funds to build a new south aisle at St Martin’s.

The architect chosen was Clapton Crabb Rolfe (1845-1907) who did almost all his work in the Oxford diocese. It is not known how he came to be chosen for the work at St Martin’s. He was a committed Anglo-Catholic who wrote on highly controversial Victorian topics, such as chancel screens, liturgical colours and incense. Tanner himself was to be exposed in 1892 by a radical pamphlet as having dangerous Papist tendencies, notably the adoption of an east facing position when celebrating Holy Communion. It is possible that he and Rolfe may have known each other personally or through a mutual friend in the high church network.

Rolfe’s plans for a new south aisle were presented to, and approved by the vestry meeting of May 1881 and were designed to provide an additional 60-80 seats.  His proposal to remove the gallery (an anathema to high church purists) was not adopted but work on a few essential repairs, such as re-tiling the roof, was agreed.  Fund raising for the necessary £800-1000 started immediately and by June 1882 about half the required sum had been raised. The Essex Church Building Society provided a grant of £40 on condition that half the new seating was ‘free for the use of the poor for ever’.  Payment for the customary use of a church seat was still normal practice at this time, and was an obvious disincentive to church attendance for those too poor to pay.

At this point an unexpected controversy was stirred up. The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, established in 1877 by the artist, artisan and designer William Morris, learnt about Rolfe’s proposal and, in January 1883, sent two committee members to make a detailed plan and to write a report on the church. They may have learnt of Rolfe’s proposal through an announcement in Building News of July 1882 which was inserted in the SPAB file, or through the connections of one of the committee members, the architect and artist G.P.Boyce, who been educated at the Ongar Academy. Boyce would have known the church well from attending Sunday service while he was at the school.

The secretary of the SPAB wrote a long letter to the rector and churchwardens in February 1883 objecting to Rolfe’s proposals. He noted “It is quite evident that to attempt to enlarge this deeply interesting building would be fatal to its integrity and value as a remarkable memorial of ancient times; the committee is bound therefore to urge upon the guardians of the church to refuse to entertain the proposal of enlargement & if the new district church (this must refer to St

James, Marden Ash) should not be sufficient relief, another church should be built for the purpose of dividing the congregation.”

Tanner’s reply has not survived, but the SPAB wrote to him again in May 1883 asking to put in direct contact with the architect, and he responded a month later and provided Rolfe’s address in Oxford. By this time a faculty had been granted by the diocese for the construction of the new aisle. The SPAB opened up a second front in July 1883 by canvassing Captain Phillip Budworth with the expectation that he would use his influence to oppose the extension. However it failed to get any support from that quarter.

At this point the sequence of events is a little difficult to untangle as the surviving correspondence is not complete. In June the SPAB had sent its founder and most influential member, William Morris, to visit Rolfe in his Oxford office, and Morris was apparently satisfied with the architect’s explanation of his proposals. However it appears that the Society wrote again in July and, though the copy is lost, Rolfe’s elegantly written reply showed that it had caused great offence. “I am both surprised and pained at being written to in this way – in a manner which must repel rather than encourage confidence in your Society” he noted, before proceeding at length to use historical precedent to justify the addition of the new south aisle. He signed off the letter with a word of advice – “if your Society wishes to inspire confidence, it should act with a little more discernment, and write with a little more courtesy than in this case”. Enclosed with the letter was a copy of part of his specification for the work to be undertaken, endorsed with a rather more severe note - “to tell the truth, I think you have gone a little too far in this case, and that some apology is needed.”

There is no more correspondence on the file, so we do not know if Rolfe received his apology. The project then progressed smoothly and the south aisle was completed in November 1884 at a cost of £1,173. Frederick Noble was the main contractor, with the structural woodwork and pews made by Henry Barlow, both Ongar builders. The decorative carving, including the beautifully detailed angels, was undertaken by one of the leading architectural sculptors of the day, Harry Hems of Exeter. The polychromatic walls of brick and stone, now hidden under white paint, would have been a striking feature of this addition to St Martin’s and doubtless as deeply offensive to the SPAB as they would be to a modern visitor.

Michael Leach

(with very grateful acknowledgement of Dr James Bettley’s extensive research)

Library display back to top

Having only recently been discovered in a loft after several decades, an illuminated text reflecting the distinguished life and career of CLARA STEWART is now on display in Ongar Library.  Along with a handful of others, she founded a social club for the elderly which has been well known in the district since it was established about 50 years ago. It is still in existence to this day and meets regularly in St James' Church Hall.


It is well worth a visit to see this excellent tribute and the other local artefacts and exhibits on display.

John Winslow

Dates for your diary back to top

December 5th    OMHS Christmas Social

8pm     United Reformed Church Hall

Note – new venue!

Members only please.

February 5th    The Essex Earthquake

– a talk by Anne Brooks

NB Time and venue to be confirmed.

March 22nd   The 2013 Marion Slade Lecture

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

incl. Greensted Church and Mary Rose

Given by Dr Martin Bridges.

Essex Studio, Zinc Arts Centre, Ongar

April 30th    Visit to Waltham Abbey

am – EFDC Museum

pm – Tour of the Abbey

Details to be confirmed.

Contributions for next newsletter please!

The next newsletter will be produced in February 2013, so any articles to Jenny please by 26th January. Thank you!