Meeting reports 2004 -2005

Society meeting 17th September;
The Fancy on the Marshes: The Story of Bare Knuckle Prize Fighting by Robert Barltrop

The first meeting of the 2004/05 season was very well attended and new members and visitors were made very welcome. The hall had been decorated during the summer break and members were pleased with the more comfortable chairs.

Robert Barltrop gave a very interesting and informative talk on the origins of bare knuckle prize fighting. Such fights were mentioned in the diary of Samuel Pepys and continued from the 17th century until well into the 19th century. ‘The prize’, quite a large sum of money e.g. as much as �500 or more, was put up by members of the aristocracy who enjoyed this form of sport and made bets on the outcome. The prize went to the winner of the fight. These fights were held on commons and open spaces all around London. There were no set rules. The bouts lasted as long as it took for one of the contestants to be the clear winner. Sometimes it took 20 to 30 rounds.

As time went by questions were asked in Parliament about the legality of this cruel sport and the fights began to take place in out of the way places such as the marshes of Kent and Essex away from the police. The fights were still popular and in the 19th century when the trains reached into Essex trainloads of passengers travelled down to the marshes to see a fight.

Circa 1840, the aristocracy lost interest in the fights in favour of horse racing and boxing with gloves became popular. The Queensberry rules were laid down in 1866 for boxing. The names of some of the bare knuckle champions live on such as Mendoza, Tom Sayers, Jem Mace and Tom King.

Society meeting 15th October
Weatherboard - Our Forgotten Heritage by Norma Jennings

Norma Jennings began her lecture with the reasons why she became interested in this type of cladding on buildings. It was through her interest in genealogy and from that, discovering the type of houses her ancestors lived in. There are more houses of this type to be found near the coast because inland the wealthier families pulled down the weatherboard houses and built in brick. Therefore the weatherboarded houses became the ordinary architecture of the common man and can still be seen in many coastal areas, usually painted black or white.

We learned that there were several ways of protecting buildings from the weather i.e. tiles, plastering (in Essex this led to the plaster art of pargetting) and freestone. In Norfolk flints and chalk were used for building as well as weatherboard.. Essex had no stone for building so the timber-framed houses were covered in slats of wood. Elm, being plentiful, was the most popular wood used in Essex. In the 18th century weatherboarding was at it height of popularity. Kent, Surrey and Sussex used weatherboard long after it died out elsewhere. Slats were decorated in various ways, rusticated along the lower edge, scalloped or gauged to resemble brick.

Emigrants in the 17th century took the idea to America where it is known as clapboard and it is still very popular today. Weatherboard is also used in modern homes in the UK.

Norma Jennings lecture included many technical details of the types of stone and wood used over the centuries and illustrated the talk with excellent slides.

Note: There are several listed weather board buildings in Thurrock, particularly at Fobbing, Orsett and Stifford and these can be found in Listed Buildings publication available from TLHS.

Society meeting 19th November
Medieval Popular Religion By Dr Jennifer Ward

Dr Jennifer Ward’s lecture covered the 13th to the 15th centuries. She concentrated mostly on the churches of Suffolk and Norfolk because these were in parishes that were wealthier in those centuries and therefore had interiors, carvings and wall-paintings that can still be admired today.

Dr Ward showed, as an example, Southwold church with its flint flushwork, hammerbeam roof and perpendicular style. She explained how the Church with its seven sacraments, baptism, confirmation, confession, the mass, extreme unction and the ordination of priests impacted on the lives of the parishioners. Because, in general, people could not read or write the churches were full of ways of illustrating biblical scenes on carved stone fonts, wall paintings, carved pew ends and stained glass windows. There was also a strong element of fear in medieval religion. Adam and Eve and the serpent depicting temptation, wall paintings, such as the Wenhaston Doom, showing the descent into hell’s mouth or rise to heaven depending on how the scales weighed the sins or virtues of the departed, carvings showing the seven vices, all these illustrations encouraged the parishioners to lead a virtuous life.

The richer members of the community endowed their churches with silver chalices, carved pews, stained glass and had chantries built for masses to be sung after death to ease the soul through purgatory. In addition to statues of Mary and the saints, mythical figures such as the Green Man with leaves coming out of his mouth and the hairy wild man wielding a club also appear.

The fairly well off formed religious guilds and celebrated feast days throughout the year. Guildhalls were built such as at Thaxted where the members of the guild could meet and enjoy dinners or suppers after mass. Religious festivals, plays, beating the bounds were enjoyed by all. Pilgrims made their way to holy sites such as Canterbury, Westminster, Walsingham and brought back tokens as souvenirs of their pilgrimage. Religion was enjoyable as well as fearful.

Christmas Meeting: Friday, 10th December, 2004

Members and friends enjoyed a very convivial evening at our Christmas meeting. An appetising array of ‘nibbles’ supplied by members was accompanied by wine and soft drinks contributed by the society.

Jonathan Catton and Terry Carney of Thurrock Museum brought along 30 slides of places in Thurrock for members to identify.This quiz was won by Chris Harrold, one of our patrons, who received a copy of a recently published book on local history, Grays Thurrock – A History by Brian Evans. John Webb, also a patron, brought some display boards showing photos of Thurrock and items from the web site.Amongst the display were 20 numbered photos to be identified.This quiz was won by Mr Cosby who received a prize of chocolates.

A selection of unusual objects, provided by the museum, served as interesting subjects for discussion.

The raffle, which had very good prizes, raised £90 for the society’s funds. It was also announced that a collection at the last meeting raised £60 for ‘Children in Need’.

Society meeting: 21st January, 2005
Sir Alexander Temple: Chadwell’s Puritan Knight by John Matthews

This first meeting of 2005 saw over 80 members and visitors crowd into the hall for John Matthews’ first lecture to the Society. Another ‘first’ was that the illustrations were presented via a laptop computer using Power Point rather than the usual slide projector.

John began his lecture with the origins of the Temple family who came from Leicestershire but moved to a property at Burton Dassett in Warwickshire during the 16th century where they built a fortune based on sheep farming. In 1590, John Temple, Sir Alexander’s father bought Stowe in Buckinghamshire. Thomas Temple, the eldest son, inherited this property. Alexander, a younger son, was able to prosper by making very advantageous marriages.

He first married Mary Penistone, a wealthy widow with three young children, and they lived in St Margaret’s near Rochester. John Temple gave his son the Manor of Bartons, in Buckinghamshire, as part of the marriage settlement. Three children were born to Mary and Alexander; John, James and Susan. In 1603, Alexander received a knighthood from King James I, on Tower Hill, a few months after his brother Thomas.

Following his wife’s death in 1607, Alexander sold Bartons to his brother in exchange for Longhouse Place (now known as Chadwell Place) and other local properties in Chadwell St Mary and Little Thurrock.

Sir Alexander married Margaret Griffin and settled in Chadwell Place where he proceeded to acquire one of the symbols of an upwardly mobile member of the gentry i.e. a deer park and a rabbit warren. He was appointed Captain of Tilbury Fort, which in those days was still the Blockhouse built by Henry VIII.

In 1600, Sir Alexander’s youngest sister, Elizabeth, had married William Fiennes, a prominent Puritan, opposed to James and Charles I. Through this connection, Sir Alexander was involved in the Protestant cause and plotted against any form of Catholicism.

By 1620, his wife Margaret died and he married Mary, the widow of John Busbridge of Haremere Hall in Etchingham, Sussex. Alexander moved with his family to Haremere Hall although Longhouse continued as a family residence. He now had three residences including one in Chancery Lane. After several previous attempts at entering Parliament he was elected MP for Sussex in 1627. He served on the Religious Committee, was chosen to present Parliament’s grievances to the King and he opposed the policies of the Duke of Buckingham.

Sir Alexander, a socially and politically ambitious man, died in 1629 at the age of 42 and is buried in Rochester Cathedral with his first wife.

Sarah Jennings, a great-granddaughter of Sir Alexander Temple and confidante of Queen Anne, married John Churchill, the 1st Duke of Marlborough who, after his military victories, began the building of Blenheim Palace.

This lecture was beautifully illustrated with portraits of members of the Temple family and views of the properties they owned or were associated with.

Society meeting: Friday, 18th February, 2005
The Saxon Burial at Prittlewell, Essex by Ken Crowe

Ken Crowe began his lecture by describing the area around the site of the excavation of this unique Saxon grave. The area was well known by archaeologists having been excavated in 1923 and 1930 when Roman burials and Saxon graves were found revealing such items as Roman vases and pots and Saxon gold and garnet saucer brooches and beads.

In the autumn of 2003, at Priory Crescent, Prittlewell a 7th century grave was discovered which contained artifacts that indicated that this was the grave of a person of high standing in the community such as a prince or a king of Essex. The objects in the tomb were found as they had been placed in the grave. This was because the roof timbers had gradually decayed allowing the sandy soil above to trickle into the tomb and fix the items in position. The acid in the soil had removed all trace of the body but the teeth plus the sword and other items indicated that it was a man.

Among the items found in the grave were a bronze hanging bowl, drinking vessels of glass and wood with gilded and silver rims, drinking horns and vessels made of decorated blue glass. Also a shield boss, spear heads and a sword, a folding stool and a lyre. The first complete lyre to be found in England. Most unusual were two small, gold foil crosses which may have been placed on the eyes. The crosses indicated that this ‘king’ had converted to Christianity.

The lecture was accompanied by excellent slides which showed that, although not as rich, this excavation was as important as Sutton Hoo in Suffolk.

The Museum of London Archaeology Service made a video record of the excavation and the television ‘Time Team’ will feature the excavation in April ’05.

Society meeting:18th March, 2005
Mistress Angharad – a Cook at Kentwell by Joan Williams

Joan Williams came to the meeting attired in the Tudor costume of her role as cook at Kentwell Hall. She began her lecture with the history of Kentwell Hall at Long Melford, Suffolk. It is a fine moated Tudor House built by the Clopton family, who made their fortune in the wool trade, completed about 1540. There are extensive grounds and a farm The Cloptons were also builders of the church at Long Melford.

Patrick and Judith Philips bought the house in 1971. In 1979 Kentwell staged the first Re-Creation of Tudor Domestic Life which aims to capture the spirit of the 16th century including adopting the speech patterns of the time. The Gentry are busy with the affairs of the Manor. At leisure they listen to the songs and music of the time and dine on the food prepared in the kitchens. Mistress Angharad explained that all the food is prepared from Tudor recipes using herbs from the garden and spices.. For the Gentry they cook beef, mutton, pork, coney, hare and fowl. There is carp from the moat and other fish on fish days and fine white bread, also pies and salads. Butter is churned in the Dairy and cheeses and junkets are made. The workers have more simple fare such as pottage, a stew of vegetables, and coarse bread. Meat is a rarity.

Miss Angharad described her costume and the various items she had hanging from her belt. She explained that pockets in seams had not been invented in Tudor days. A table of various artefacts from the period created much interest for members.

World War II re-creations were started in 1995 to celebrate VE day and Kentwell’s role as a Transit Camp.

Everybody agreed that Joan Williams gave a very interesting and entertaining lecture.

Society Annual General Meeting 29th April 05.

The meeting was well attended. The Chairman reported on a very successful year which had included the celebrity lecture by the late Fred Dibnah, two enjoyable summer outings and a winter season of interesting lectures. Susan Yates was re-elected as Chairman and the rest of the committee were willing to stand for another year. Ken Levy was appointed as the Society’s representative on the Coalhouse Fort Committee.

During the interval tickets were on sale for the Professor Richard Holmes Celebrity Lecture on 13th May.

An unusual lecture called ‘The Excavation and Recording of a Post Mediaeval Donkey’ by Angela Fitzpatrick followed the business of the AGM. In 2003, while digging the footings of a garage in a private garden at Noak Hill, near Billericay in Essex, numerous pottery shards had been discovered which were dated as mediaeval. Members of the Rochford Field Archaeology Group mounted a formal excavation of the site. They found a variety of green, brown and stoneware bottles but further investigation uncovered the bones of an equestrian animal. All four legs had been severed and the head was place over the shoulder. The skeleton was complete but was presumably cut up to fit the hole. The animal was small but fully grown and experts agreed that it was a donkey. It was dated as mid 17th century. Excavations of donkeys are exceptionally rare, only eight are known and in some cases they are just a few bones. By examining the teeth, experts were able to assess that the donkey was a stallion and probably 6 - 7 years old. The Natural History Museum in London has taken great interest in the Noak Hill Donkey. It will probably end up in their collection after all the post archaeological work has been completed. The lecture was accompanied by excellent slides.