The fighting in the Great War ended more than 100 years ago, but participants in that war are still being recognised. Sometimes bodies are recovered on the former battlefields of France and Flanders, but discoveries are also made closer to home. In 2012, a new Commonwealth War Grave headstone was erected in Chadwell churchyard in memory of Stanley Ansell who died in 1919 and is buried in the churchyard, although the exact location of his grave has been lost due to imprecise records.
The CWG has also now agreed to erect a Special Memorial, to Gunner Alfred William Ansell in Chadwell churchyard. It will be inscribed with his name, rank and number, date of death and his regiment. At the top, it will be inscribed “KNOWN TO BE BURIED IN THIS CHURCHYARD”
Alfred William Ansell was the son of William and Catherine Ansell of Tilbury and husband of Emmie Ansell of Paddington, London. He was a reservist who was mobilised in August 1914 and served in the Royal Garrison Artillery. He saw active service in the BEF for about 18 months. He was discharged in March 1916 as no longer fit for active service and died on 31st July 1917, aged 30.
This belated recognition is due in no small measure to Geoffrey Gillon, who has worked hard to persuade the CWG that Gunner Ansell deserves a memorial. Geoffrey is a volunteer with the “In from the Cold” project which is dedicated to recognising the sacrifice of the thousands of men and women who died in the service of Britain and the Commonwealth during two world wars and yet have no official recognition.
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.
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.