Author Archives: rjm

Sir Thomas Penistone

This month (April, 2018) saw the publication of Rosemary O’Day’s magnificent (if expensive) account of the Temple family of Stowe (An Elite Family in Early Modern England, Boydell Press). The book focuses on Sir Thomas Temple and his wife, Dame Hester, but, having been born at Stowe, Sir Alexander Temple of Chadwell is one of the minor characters. Sir Alexander’s children – James, John and Susan – appear only in a pedigree, but his stepson, Thomas (later Sir Thomas) Penistone has a more significant role, having married Sir Thomas Temple’s daughter, Martha.
Sir Thomas Penistone, was already studying at Oxford when, in 1607, Sir Alexander acquired Chadwell Place (also known as Longhouse Place – the source of the Chadwell street name, Longhouse Road). However, he was very likely to have visited Chadwell regularly, since Sir Alexander was his legal guardian as well as his step-father. A rather young Thomas appears alongside his mother in a portrait that currently hangs in Leeds Castle. O’Day notes (p. 254) that in 1610 (when he was 19, and not yet of full age), he accompanied his step-father on a visit to Sir Arthur Throckmorton. He married Martha Temple the following year. Martha “was venerated as a saint and a beauty … she was not as virtuous as her tomb suggests” (p. 36)

Sir Thomas Penistone was among a large number of gentleman in the retinue of the third Earl of Dorset – “one of the seventeenth century’s most accomplished gamblers and wastrels” according to Robert Cooper in The Literary Guide and Companion to Southern England (Ohio University Press, 1998). O’Day chronicles the ensuing affair between the Earl and Martha using Temple family sources as well as the diary of Anne Clifford, the Earl’s wife. The family appear to have turned a blind eye to this liaison. The affair ended in January 1619/20, when Martha was taken ill while at the house of Sir William Andrews (the husband of her sister Anne). She was taken to Stowe, but “my sister Penistone dyed at Stowe of the small pockes upon Friday night about 11 or 12 of the clock, being 14th January”.(p. 270) Sir Thomas Penistone remarried, but continued on good terms with his step family, and in 1633, his step-sister, Susan (who grew up in Chadwell), chose him rather than her brother James as a trustee for her marriage settlement when she married Sir Martin Lister.

O’Day’s book is a tour de force, combining the use of the extensive Temple archive in the Huntington Library in California with documents from numerous record offices in the UK. The specific details of the life of Sir Thomas and Dame Hester are used to illustrate and comment on social and political issues of much wider relevance. At £75, it is good value but not cheap and it will not be an automatic purchase for its Thurrock local history content. However, it is essential reading for any student of the period.

Terry Carney (1945 – 2018)

We learned this week of the death of Terry Carney who was a former curator of the Thurrock Local History Museum – the museum curator had not yet metamorphosed in to a Heritage Officer. He spoke to the society on many occasions including a talk marking the publication of Thurrock in the Thirties, an accompanying volume to his earlier Thurrock in the Twenties.
In those days, the museum organised local history walks during the summer. I signed up for the Belhus walk. When I arrived, Terry told me I was the only person to do so. We waited a short while to see whether anyone else turned up, but when they didn’t, Terry and I set off on our own. We had a fascinating couple of hours as he talked about the mansion and visited the ice house. Then he took me in to the woods to see the site of a former pottery.
When he retired, I was privileged to be invited to his farewell dinner – at Mumford’s, the fish and chip shop. I bumped in to him from time to time thereafter. Once at the train station, but more often (though not frequently) at funerals for departed Thurrock local historians. The diminishing band of current local historians will say their last respects to him in March.

Herbert E Brooks

For many residents of Grays, their memory of the town is buildings covered in grey dust from the local cement industry. The cement industry was an important part of the local economy from the middle of 19th century. The Brooks family brought the industry to Grays and their company provided local employment (under a variety of names) for many years. A prominent member of the family was Herbert Edmund Brooks.

He was born in 1860, the son of Edmund Brooks and Ann Marsh. His father, was a Quaker, and philanthropist who was active in Liberal party politics as well as causes such as the anti-slavery movement and famine relief. In 1871 Edmund Brooks founded the family cement company in Grays. This eventually amalgamated with other companies to form the Associated Portland Cement Manufacturers Ltd.

Herbert Brooks worked in the family business rising to become a director of the Associated Portland Cement company. He was also a director of other major companies such as the P&O shipping line. In 1913, he visited India on behalf of the cement company to investigate the possibility of establishing a cement works there. Brooks selected a suitable site, but the plans for this venture had to be put on hold as a result of the outbreak of the First World War.

He was prominent in local affairs as a JP and as the deputy Lieutenant of Essex. His many other public offices included Chairman of the Grays Urban District Council and Chairman of the Essex County Council. He remained a county alderman until his death.

Brooks was interested in the local history of the area and in 1883, when a denehole was discovered in a company chalk pit, he made a plan of it and invited the Essex Field club to view it. In 1928 he published William Palmer and his School, a history of what is now Palmer’s College. Notes of his research are stored in the Thurrock Library as the Brooks papers, extracts from which have been published in Panorama – the Journal of the Thurrock Local History Society.

Herbert Brooks lived for about 40 years in Stifford Lodge which had been bought by his father Edmund Brooks. There had been a house on this site since the 14th century. Although much altered, the house inhabited by Brooks dated back to the 18th century when it was rebuilt by Jasper Kingsman. Herbert Brooks died at the Lodge in March 1931. After his death, his widow lived there for a short while. It was used as a military hospital during the 2nd world war and was subsequently sold becoming the Stifford Lodge Hotel.

In January 1932, following his death, a memorial to him was unveiled by another local landowner, Champion Branfill Russell, in Stifford church. Later in the year, on the 26th November, Grays Town Council approved the plans for the HE Brooks memorial garden at the top of Orsett Road, which opened in 1933. The garden is still there and now also contains a holocaust memorial. A portrait of Brooks hangs in a committee room at County Hall.

Conversion to Christianity: the earliest mention of a place in Thurrock

The 7th century saw the conversion of Essex (including Thurrock) from Paganism to Christianity, but it took three attempts. At the beginning of the 7th century, London was part of the Kingdom of the East Saxons – the people, not the geographic area. King Saebert converted to Christianity at the behest of his overlord, King Æthelberht of Kent. Saint Mellitus became Bishop of London and his see included Essex. Essex reverted to Paganism on the death of King Saebert and Mellitus was forced to leave.

Around AD 655, St Cedd undertook a successful mission to re-convert the East Saxons and built churches at Bradwell and Tilbury. The building of the Tilbury church (on the banks of the Thames) was described in Bede’s History of the English Church and is the earliest written reference to a location in Thurrock. St Cedd became Bishop of the East Saxons, in effect, Bishop of London. He died on 26th October, AD 664. However, on the death of King Sigeberht II (the Good), Essex again reverted to Paganism.

West Tilbury church, possibly on the site of St Cedd’s church.

The final (and lasting) conversion of the East Saxons to Christianity took place following a mission by Bishop Jaruman of Lichfield sent by King Wulfhere of Mercia, who was overlord of the East Saxons.

FoEC Study Day – 7th October

Participants in the Friends of Essex Churches study day on 7th October enjoyed a programme of interesting talks by Dr Christopher Starr and visited a variety of local churches. The second of the four churches was St Mary the Virgin, Corringham which has Anglo-Saxon stonework, but currently, a distinctly Anglo-Catholic appearance. The third church was St Peter and St Paul, Horndon on the Hill which was renovated at the end of the 19th century. As a result, it is a delight for enthusiasts of the arts and craft movement. The final visit was to St Mary Magdalene, North Ockendon. The church is rich in heraldry and our own Christopher Harold gave a short presentation about two of the hatchments. The church also illustrates one of the pitfalls for the local historian. Until 50 years ago, North Ockendon was in Essex, but it is now in Greater London. Consequently you will look in vain in the current Essex volume of Pevsner to learn about the church.

Medieval font at St Michael’s, Fobbing

However, perhaps the most interesting from the point of view of Essex heritage was the first stopping place – St Michael’s, Fobbing. This too has some Anglo-Saxon architectural features on the north wall, including a now blocked window. The font is from the 13th century (although the stem and cover are modern). It would have been used to baptise Thomas Baker – one of the leaders of the Peasant’s revolt who was hanged for his participation. He is one of the candidates for a new Thurrock heritage plaque. In the 17th century, the incumbent was John Pell. The Fobbing living was a sinecure intended to finance his mathematical research and he probably spent little time in Thurrock. None the less, he invented the division sign and is undoubtedly the most prominent mathematician to have lived here. He is another worthy candidate for a new heritage plaque.

Thurrock Churches in FoEC Study Day

After St Cedd converted the people of Thurrock and the rest of Essex to Christianity, there was one further relapse into Paganism, but eventually the church secured a dominant place in Anglo-Saxon society. By the eve of the Norman invasion – on the day on which King Edward was alive and dead in the evocative Domesday phrase – large amounts of Thurrock were owned by the church. In some cases ownership was by monasteries, particularly Barking Abbey and in other cases it was by senior churchmen such as the Bishop of London.
However, although the church dominated society, there were no parishes. Churches were widespread, but most local churches in Thurrock were the private property of landowners. A document known as Geþyncðo recorded that owning a church was one of the characteristics that distinguished the social standing of a thegn. These estate churches were originally used by the landowner and his family but gradually extended to others that lived and worked on the estate. It is these estates that in due course evolved into parishes.
In 1066, there were probably churches in at least ten of the 17 parishes wholly within the present Thurrock Unitary Authority (see Panorama 48). These churches would have been close to the thegn’s home – the manor house. The evidence for these pre-Domesday churches can be documentary, archaeological or architectural. One clear example of Anglo-Saxon architecture is found in Corringham church.
St Mary’s church is on Church Lane, a short distance from Corringham Hall, which was the manor house for the main Corringham manor. There is architectural evidence that Corringham church was originally built by the Saxons. On the south side of the chancel, there are a number of courses of stonework laid in a herringbone pattern which is characteristic of Saxon masonry. The tower is 11th century, and was previously regarded as probably early Norman rather than Saxon. However, recent work has suggested that it is indeed Saxon. St Mary’s Corringham is one of the churches that will feature in an autumn study day organised by the Friends of Essex Churches on 7th October. Dr Christopher Starr will be talking about the churches at Fobbing, Horndon and North Ockendon as well as St Mary’s.

From the 7th to the 20th century

TLHS recently announced that as part of its HLF funded project, it will be working with Blatella Films. Blatella will produce a number of short videos that promote Thurrock’s heritage. The subject of one of these videos will be Margaret Jones who directed the Mucking excavation between 1965 and 1968. At the time, this excavation was the largest ever undertaken in Europe and uncovered an Anglo-Saxon settlement and two associated cemeteries. The graves dated from the 5th to the 7th century, but appeared to stop around AD 650.

One possible reason that these pagan cemeteries went out of use at this time may be the missionary activities of St Cedd. Bede’s History of the English Church records that Cedd built two churches in Essex – one at Bradwell (which survives) and one just down the road from Mucking, at Tilbury on the banks of the Thames.

The newly Christianised Anglo-Saxons may have decided to abandon their pagan cemetery and establish a Christian cemetery close to Cedd’s newly built church. We don’t know the location of Cedd’s Tilbury church, but it may have been on the site of the present East Tilbury parish church.

Although separated by thirteen hundred years, both Margaret Jones and St Cedd made important contributions to Thurrock’s heritage. Neither currently has a Thurrock heritage plaque; perhaps they should have.

A Great War heroine, born in Aveley

 

The experiences of women during the Great War are less well known than those of the men who volunteered for the army and served at the front. In June, 2017, a new book was published that went a little way to redressing this imbalance. Kate Luard was born in Aveley. She served as a nurse in the Boer War and the 1st World War. Like Florence Nightingale, she was twice awarded the Royal Red Cross medal, 1st class.

This book of her letters was originally published in the 1930s and has become rather rare. This new edition will bring it to a wider audience. As a Thurrock born Great War heroine, perhaps her achievements deserve to be  recognised with a Thurrock Heritage plaque.

Unknown Warriors, The History Press – available on Amazon for £14.99.

Daniel Defoe of Tilbury

Daniel Defoe is one of the major literary figures who have lived in Thurrock. In 2014, James Canton spoke to a society meeting about his book, OUT OF ESSEX Re-Imagining a Literary Landscape (Signal Books, 2013). In chapter 7 of the book he describes his search for Daniel Defoe.

He met Jonathan Catton and Randal Bingley (who are both greatly missed) in the World’s End pub. Randal had identified the site of the house built by Defoe (Panorama 27). Although not named, this can be seen on the Chapman & Andre map of Essex in the Tilbury marshes in the parish of Chadwell. Randal took Canton to a site where he could see the remnants of the drainage sewer that had served the house and tile works.

In his search for Defoe, Canton also contacted John Martin, a Defoe biographer (The Man That Never Was, APF Ltd, 2013). Martin had also been shown the drainage sewer by Randal. Martin believes that Defoe was born in 1644 and that his mother Ellen was related to Edward Lawrence who owned the Gobions Manor in East Tilbury. According to Martin, Defoe was educated there in the period 1658-1662 and lived there with his brother Thomas for some ten years to 1705. Randal took us to East Tilbury where we were able to inspect the former site of the manor house. Martin’s biography has not been well received by some reviewers. According to Sheldon Rogers of the University of Portsmouth, Martin’s biography “is … tainted by fiction, inaccuracies, and an unreliable chain-forging of evidence”.

Whatever the details, there is no doubt that Defoe lived in Tilbury and built a house there. However, there is no Thurrock Heritage Plaque to mark this association. Does Defoe deserve a plaque, and if so where should it be placed?

The Fighting Essex Soldier

In March, 2014, the Essex Record Office played host to a conference “The Fighting Essex Soldier: War Recruitment and Remembrance in the Fourteenth Century”. The conference theme was inspired by Neil Wiffen’s reading of Arms, Armies and Fortifications in the Hundred Years War by Curry and Hughes. On the 6th May 2017, the same venue hosted a launch for the book of the conference. This has now metamorphosed into The Fighting Essex Soldier Recruitment, war and society in the fourteenth century (published by the University of Hertfordshire Press with sponsorship from the Essex Journal and the Friends of Historic Essex; priced £18.99). The afternoon began with a seemingly endless supply of cream and chocolate cakes together with copious cups of coffee. There was also the opportunity to buy not just the book itself but many other Essex history publications from the Essex Society for Archaeology and History. We then went in to the lecture hall for the main event which was a talk from Dr Adam Chapman of the Victoria County History project on “Soldiers of the English Realm: Essex and beyond c.1300-c.1450” which drew on both the new book and also on his own publication – Welsh Soldiers in the Later Middle Ages, 1282-1422 (Boydell & Brewer, 2015, price £60).

He gave us a fascinating account of the “English” army at the beginning of the Hundred Years War (at that time mainly composed of Welsh archers, who were depicted by an anonymous clerk as wearing shoes on only one foot). By the middle of the fifteenth century this army had become a more professional and locally recruited force with participants expected to supply their own arms and armour. We were introduced to the longbows and the arrows; to the procurement of the arms and the pay of the soldiers and to ships from Essex and Monmouthshire. Especially interesting to the Thurrock historian, was an account of the small village of Fobbing.

Fobbing’s role in the Peasant’s Revolt is reasonably well known. The late Randal Bingley wrote about Thomas Baker, Hanged on the fourth of July in Panorama 44 (1987) and a photograph of the memorial at Fobbing can be found on the society’s web site. But Dr Chapman also gave us the less well known fact that in the fourteenth century, Fobbing supplied the crown with naval vessels and crew. In 1372, forty eight mariners came from Fobbing, while Stanford le Hope provided forty four more. Even East Tilbury chipped in with a further seven. There is a detailed account of the Essex contribution to the 14th century navy and the possible link to the Peasant’s revolt in chapters 6 and 7 of the book.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable and informative day; all involved deserve many congratulations.