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Ongar Millennium History Society

Ongar Millennium History Society


August 2015

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The Tanners remembered in St. Martin’s Church

Schoolmasters and teaching in seventeenth century Chipping Ongar


Dates for the diary

Hello - it’s good to be back!

Well here we are approaching our next AGM, and our celebration of the Queen’s accession the throne to become the longest reigning monarch in history. See details about the OMHS celebration of this in this issue. In addition, we have visited local historical sites including Pleshey Castle, Copped Hall, and Chelmsford Museum.

If anyone has any other ideas for visits or talks, please let any member of the committee know. We are always looking for new input, so put your thinking caps on.

Jenny Main, Editor

Committee members

Chair           Felicitie Barnes                Vice Chair + Newsletter     Jenny Main

Treasurer    Kathleen Jenkins              Venues Sec.                      Wendy Thomas

Secretary    Sandra Dear                    Membership+Speaker Sec.  Lorna Vaux

Archive       Ron Huish/Derek Birch

The Tanners remembered in St. Martin’s Church Back to Top

On his appointment as Rector of St. Martin’s Church in 1878, Rev. James Tanner soon realised that many people who would like to attend his church were not able to do so. The population of the town had increased by 50% between 1801 and 1881 and there were simply not enough seats. St. James’ Church in nearby Marden Ash was under construction (completed in 1882) and there was added competition from the nearby Congregational Chapel (United Reformed Church), extended in 1865, and neighbouring St. Helen’s Catholic Church, built in 1869. These factors stimulated the parishioners to raise funds in order to build the new south aisle at St. Martin’s to provide additional seating. The full story of the enlargement of St. Martin’s Church in 1884 is told by Michael Leach in the November 2012 issue of the Ongar Millennium History Society Newsletter.

Close to the entrance to the Church on the north side, under the organ loft, a wooden plaque commemorates this event. It tells us: “This Church was enlarged in the year 1884 by which means additional sittings for 72 persons were obtained. A grant of £40 in aid of the undertaking was made by the Essex Church Building Society on condition that 36 of the additional sittings should be set apart and declared to be free for the use of the poor for ever.” It is signed by James Tanner, Rector and the Churchwardens, A.H.Christie and T.E.Rose.

A wooden wall plaque is located nearby bearing the Christian symbol “IHS” (Jesus Hominum Salvator = Jesus saviour of man). It reads: “In affectionate memory of James Tanner MA rector of this parish from September 27th 1878 until his death on November 24th 1914. This tablet is placed here by his parishioners.”

James Tanner is also remembered in a stained glass window (shown in Picture 1) on the south wall depicting Jesus holding a lamb with the inscription: “I am the good shepherd”. At the bottom is the dedication: “To the glory of God and in memory of James Tanner rector of this parish from 1878 to 1914”.

James Tanner was born in 1832 at Arlington, Berkshire. In 1871 he married Lilla Whitelocke, who was born in Camberwell, Surrey in 1837.  Prior to becoming Rector of St. Martin’s he was headmaster of Chelmsford Grammar School. On becoming Rector in Ongar in 1878 he and Lilla lived at The Rectory, High Street, Chipping Ongar. He was well liked and the parishioners made an annual collection of nearly £100 to add to his stipend. Owing to the efforts of Rev and Mrs Tanner, over £2,000 was obtained for church restoration. Rev Tanner was a member of Chipping Ongar Parish Council; Trustee and Correspondent of the Trust School; and a member of the Local Advisory Education Committee. He also held the office of Chaplain to the Hackney Children’s Homes at Ongar. James died on 24 November 1914, aged 82, at the Norfolk Hotel, Bognor, Sussex and Lilla on 8 May 1908, aged 71, at 53 Beaumont Street, Marylebone, Middlesex.

They had one daughter, Lilla, known as Lilla Whitelocke Tanner. According to the Essex Parish Register and confirmed in the 1881 and subsequent censuses, she was born on 12 October 1872 in Chelmsford (baptised 21 November 1872). She died on 22 May 1920 in Eastbourne, aged 47. In her will her estate is named as St. James’s Lodge, High Ongar, Essex.  For twelve years she was secretary for the Ongar branch of the Girls’ Friendly Society. Lilla Whitelocke Tanner did not marry and left £4461 10s 6d in her will, including money to be spent on the maintenance and upkeep of the sanctuary of St. Martin’s Church.                                                                    

Picture 1

The stained glass window, located at the east end of the Church above the altar, is dedicated to Lilla Whitelocke Tanner, the daughter, and was designed by Leonard Walker (his name appears at the bottom right hand corner of the window) and is dated 1929. It depicts the crucifixion with Mary on the left of Jesus and St. John on his right. “INRI” (Jesus Nazarenus Rex ludaiorum = Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews) is incorporated near the top of the window and the dedication at the bottom reads: “To the glory of God and in memory of Lilla Whitelocke Tanner” (Picture 2).

Incorporated near the bottom of this window are three symbols, one in each of the sections: a chalice (symbolises communion), chi and rho (the first two letters of the name of Christ in the Greek alphabet) and three nails (a symbol of the crucifixion).

This window was previously of plain glass and originally there were six smaller windows in two tiers at the east end of the church. The jambs (stone frames) of the two outermost windows of each tier can still be seen and one is pictured below (Figure 3).

According to a newspaper article at the time, it was unveiled on Sunday 19 May 1929, the ceremony attended by Leonard Walker, the designer. The cost of the window was said to be about £750. Walker used pieces of glass of different thicknesses incorporating varying colours and                                                                                        shades to achieve his effect.

                               Picture 2

Picture 3. Remains of an original windows in the east wall.

              Picture 4

A second stained glass window is dedicated to Lilla Whitelocke Tanner. It is in the south wall of the Church (shown in Picture 4) and shows the angel Gabriel visiting Mary (Luke I; 28) with the words “Benedicta tu in mulieribus” and “Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum”. “Blessed art thou among women” “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee”. There is a further inscription: “To the glory of God and in loving memory of Lilla Whitelocke Tanner born 12th October 1873*. Fell asleep 22nd May 1920. For 12 years GFS branch secretary for Ongar”. [GFS is the Girls Friendly Society;*1872 according to published records – see above].

On the west wall a window (Picture 5) is dedicated to Lilla Tanner, the wife of Rev. James Tanner. It was designed by Leonard Walker in 1908 and is in two sections, one bearing the inscription “Dorcas” and depicting Dorcas administering to a child; the second in inscribed “Timothy & Eunice” and depicts St. Timothy with his mother, Eunice. The biblical Dorcas and Eunice were both strong personalities and achieved much in their lives. Lilla Tanner was similar in many respects and hence the inclusion of these women in the window. There are emblems beneath the figures showing an anchor (an early Christian symbol depicting hope in Christ) and the sacred heart which dates back to the 17th century in France. The sacred heart may be depicted surrounded by thorns, an angel, a crown, a pierced sword or, as in this window, a flame. The dedication at the bottom of the window reads: “To the glory of God and in the memory of Lilla Tanner wife of the rector of this parish who died 8th May 1908: this window is erected by the parishioners and other friends”.

To help explain the composition of the window, here are a few notes on the biblical characters portrayed.

Dorcas: In Acts 9:36-41 in the King James’ Bible we learn about Dorcas: “Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and almsdeeds which she did. And it came to pass in those days, that she was sick, and died: whom when they had washed, they laid her in an upper chamber. And forasmuch as Lydda was nigh to Joppa, and the disciples had heard that Peter was there, they sent unto him two men, desiring him that he would not delay to come to them. Then Peter arose and went with them. When he was come, they brought him into the upper chamber: and all the widows stood by him weeping, and shewing the coats and garments which Dorcas made, while she was with them. But Peter put them all forth, and kneeled down, and prayed; and turning him to the body said, Tabitha, arise. And she opened her eyes: and when she saw Peter, she sat up. And he gave her his hand, and lifted her up, and when he had called the saints and widows, presented her alive.” Verse 42 continues: “And it was known throughout all Joppa; and many believed in the Lord".

Eunice and Timothy: Timothy’s mother was Eunice and his maternal grandmother was Lois. These two good women instilled into Timothy’s mind the love of God and the knowledge of His Holy word. Lois was a Jewish woman who lived in Lystra with her daughter, Eunice. Eunice married a Greek man who was a pagan and they had a son, Timothy. When a Jewish woman gave birth to a son, even if the father was non-Jewish, the child was a Jew. Both Lois and Eunice were devout Jews and brought Timothy up with Jewish beliefs, but when Lois, Eunice and Timothy heard Paul’s message of Christ they converted to Christianity. Timothy was an important figure in the first century Christian church and accompanied Paul on his second missionary journey; often Paul sent him as his official representative to churches. Timothy was the recipient of two letters from Paul which are part of the New Testament. He called Timothy his “spiritual son.”

Paul said of Timothy: “When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also.” (2 Timothy 1:5; King James’ Bible).

Picture 5. The west window dedicated to Lilla Tanner, the wife of James Tanner and mother of Lilla Whitelocke Tanner, showing Dorcas, Timothy and Eunice.

Keith Snow

Stan Ball

Kathy Wenborne

Schoolmasters and teaching in seventeenth century Chipping Ongar Back to Top

As schoolmasters were required to be registered by their bishop until the eighteenth century, it is possible to identify most of them from diocesan records, now conveniently summarised on the Church of England clergy database. In combination with other sources, it is possible to identify the subsequent careers of most of them.

With one exception, all were ordained priests who concurrently or subsequently were in charge of a parish in or not far from Ongar. The exception was Christopher Glascock, a graduate of Cambridge University; he was teaching in Ongar by 1637 and had four children baptised here between 1639 and 1643. Between 1644 and 1650 he was master of the more prestigious Ipswich grammar school, and in 1650 was appointed master of Felsted School, a post which he held – presumably to the satisfaction of the governors - for nearly 40 years.

One Ongar schoolmaster, Benjamin Stebbing, is of particular interest due to a cache of surviving letters which deserve more detailed study. Stebbing was the first to benefit from the provisions of Ongar's Joseph King Trust. He was said to possess a university degree, though his name does not appear in the lists of Oxford or Cambridge graduates, nor is there any record of his ordination as a priest. However he combined his teaching with the curacy of the tiny church of Berners Roding, and brought up a large family in Ongar where nine of his children were baptised between 1670 and 1683. On becoming rector of Stondon Massey in 1690 he resigned his teaching post. Little else would be known about him but for the series of letters (now in the National Archive) written by him, a pupil named William Atwood, and the boy's parents in 1685 and 1686.

Willliam's father can probably be identified as the merchant of Hackney whose will was proved on 21 March 1690. Though in general boarding schools had barely developed at this date, it was not unusual for schoolmasters to take private pupils into their households, or to lodge them out elsewhere in the town. The letters reveal familiar parental concerns about an absent son. His mother worried about his clothes, suggesting ways of refurbishing his winter outfit for summer use, and sending a tape measure and money to his master. William was a typical boy, not averse to a bit of emotional blackmail. He wrote to his father requesting a penknife, some bird lime (a sticky substance used for catching birds), hooks, flies, packthread and a tin box, so that he could catch a pike for his mother. "I hope you will be so kind as not to deny me that, but if you have any love for me, let me have it next Thursday or Saturday..."  In another letter his parents expressed concern that William had used a gift of five shillings to purchase a half share in a gun.

Though William was clearly enjoying an active sporting life in Ongar, his progress with school work was less satisfactory. Writing to his "ever honoured father" he noted "I am sorry to hear so many complaints, but I will do my best endeavour to mend them..." Benjamin Stebbing, in a letter to the boy's father, noted sardonically that "books and birdlime agree not well together. However the latter may prove a good diversion if it will make him stick to his book..." Included with Stebbing's letter was a punishment essay that he had set William on the consequences of idleness. The schoolmaster asked his father to emphasize to his son the benefits of book learning to counteract "this folly he seems to find in that Latin will do him no good for an Apprentice."

William was a spirited and rebellious pupil. He complained at length about the harshness of his schoolmaster who detained him over his books while his fellow pupils were at play which "doth make me so dull so that I hate to goe to my book so that I cannot learn..." He suggested that his father was wasting his money in sending him to school. "I believe it is time for me to goe to learn to cast accounts for almost all the boys in our form do, as I believe it is high time for me. Pray send me a summing book from London for I believe my Master has none."

Not surprisingly, William's mother took his side against the Ongar schoolmaster. "I am infinitely troubled for poor Willie. I confesse it is but what I had feared from the harsh and churlish carriage of his master, and I am very sure that that is not the best way to deal with such tempers." At this point the correspondence ends and there is nothing to indicate whether the stern master or the rebellious pupil ultimately had their way.

Several interesting points arise from these letters, apart from the perennial disagreements about the benefits of academic learning in a disinterested pupil, and whether punishment might improve results or simply further discourage a child from learning. The letters show that the Ongar schoolmaster was taking in pupils to board from some distance away and that Latin was on the curriculum – and that book keeping was not. In spite of the boy's complaints about his schooling, he was free in his spare time – and probably more at liberty than his modern equivalent -  to enjoy rural pursuits, such as fishing for pike, catching birds with birdlime and (presumably) shooting the larger ones with his part-owned gun. It is also clear that the sardonic humour of some school teachers – as well as their "harsh and churlish carriage" - is nothing new!

Michael Leach


Church of England clergy database online

Crisp, F A, 1886 Parish Registers of Ongar, Essex, privately published

Foster, J, 1892 Alumni Oxoniensis, Oxford

Grassby, R, 2007 Kinship & Capitalism: Marriage, Family & Business in the English Speaking World

Venn, J A, 1922 Alumni Cantabrigiensis, Cambridge

Will of William Atwood (1690) PCC PROB11 398/457

Chipping Ongar schoolmasters

1637 - ?1643/4:  Christopher Glascock. 4 children baptised at CO between 1639 & 1643. Son of Christopher of Gt Waltham.  Matriculated St Catherine's Cambs 1631, BA 1634/5, MA 1638. Master of Ipswich grammar school 1644-50. Master of Felsted 1650-89. Died 1690


1662: John Crook in post and subscribing under the Act of Uniformity 11/8/1662. Not in Venn. Possibly a mistake for James Crook

1662- ?1670: James Crook bishop's licence as schoolmaster CO 20/8/1662. Son of James, weaver of Braintree. Admitted St John's Cambs Feb 1655/6. BA 1659/60. MA 1663. Rector of CO 1664-1670. Rector of Aythorpe Roding 1670-1706. Rector of Stondon Massey 1695-1706. Died 1706. MI at Stondon.


?1676-?1679: Nathaniel Reeve admitted St Catherine's College, Cambs 1671, matriculation 1674, BA 1674/5. Licensed schoolmaster at CO (no date given, but on or after 1676). Rector of Twinstead 1679-1699. Died 1699.

?1679-1690: Benjamin Stebbing first to benefit from Joseph King Trust at CO, resigned in 1690. Curate of Berners Roding 1677- ?. Rector of Stondon Massey 1690-1695. Died 1695. 9 children baptised in CO between 1670 and 1683. Not in Oxford/Cambridge list of graduates, but said to be MA.  Ann Stebbing, widow of Benjamin Stebbing, late schoolmaster of CO, buried April 1711.


1692-?1693: Francis Foulke licensed schoolmaster at CO 24/3/1692. Curate at CO from 1691. Not in Cambridge list of graduates. Not in Newcourt.

1693-?1715: John Campe admitted Queens' College Cambs 1679. Of Essex.  Matric 1680, BA 1682/3, MA 1686. Ordained priest 1692/3. Curate of CO 1691, rector of CO 1692. Licensed schoolmaster at CO 18/3/1693 Rector of Beauchamp Roding 1710.

1715-?1728 Godfrey Jones born in Ruthin. Admitted St John's College Cambs 1709. Ordained priest 1712 as "BA". Licensed as schoolmaster at CO 4/5/1715.  Rector of CO 1720-1733. Died August 1733. (Dr Godfrey Jones in parish register)

1728- ? John Hale: licensed schoolmaster at CO 21/6/1728. Not in Oxford/Cambridge last of graduates.


Church of England clergy database

Newcourt R, 1711 Repertorium

Salmon's History of Essex

Morant P, 1768 History of Essex, London



Crisp F A, 1886, Parish Registers of Ongar, Essex, published privately

Michael Leach


Thursday 17th September 2.15 for 2.30pm

Our return visit to The Ongar Ritz will be held to celebrate the life and times of Queen Elizabeth ll as she becomes the LONGEST REIGNING MONARCH IN BRITISH HISTORY.

In addition to traditional tea and cakes, we hope to hear of any personal Royal experiences or meetings over the years and we have an excellent video of an intimate study of  A YEAR IN THE LIFE OF THE QUEEN.

Admission is free to members and past members (Guests £3).  In addition there will be a contribution of £3 from everyone towards the cost of the Ritz hospitality.

There is ample free car parking.

Space is limited, so early booking is strongly advised.  Please call John Winslow on 362461 or email johnwinslow@live.co.uk

** Jubilee Pavilion, Love Lane.

Dates for the diary Back to Top

AGM.  16th September at Ongar Library, 7.45pm for 8.00pm

Tea at the Ongar Ritz -  Celebrating the Longest reigning monarch 17th Sept