Meeting Reports: 2012 - 2013
Local History Society Meeting: 21st September 2012
The winter season began with a talk by Ann Hardy on the daily life of a 17th century housewife. First Ann gave a description of the living conditions including the various diseases culminating in the plague of 1665 followed by the great fire of London in 1666. The houses were usually built on four floors and the streets were narrow. Servants slept on straw pallets on the floor. There was no piped water or sewage system, water was delivered to the houses and excrement went into cess pits or was thrown into the streets and collected by the night soil men.
Married women had no wealth of their own, all their assets belonged to the husband. Womens clothes consisted of a long shift or chemise, then a corset stiffened with whale bone. Over this she wore a bodice and long skirt, sometimes two skirts but no under garments. For going out, she wore a mantle, a hat and sometimes a mask. It was fashionable to wear black patches of various shapes on the face, possibly to hide small-pox scars. They set their hair with sugar water and if necessary, wore false teeth a plentiful supply after the plague. Girls wore a corset from a young age to develop the right posture and figure for marriage. To obtain cash for make-up, ribbons, patches etc wives often pawned items of clothing.
Housework was done with brooms and mops. The silver and pewter had to be kept highly polished. Women could cook, sew, knit, grow vegetables and herbs, wash the clothes and bedding and treat the familys ailments. Washing household linen and linen garments was done twice a year and could take a week to complete. The washing was soaked in tubs containing urine and lye, then rinsed in water and hung out to dry over rosemary bushes.
This was a detailed and lively talk, well illustrated particularly with a 17th century corset which was passed round the audience.
Jennifer Ward, the October guest speaker, gave a detailed account of the parish church and its influence on life in the Middle Ages. The Pope was the head of the church and the bishops and priests ensured that the parishioners followed the tenets of the Christian faith. There were seven sacraments which included baptism, confirmation, the Eucharist at mass, marriage and extreme unction, the last being the anointing of oil, by a priest, at the time of death. Children knew the doctrines of the church by learning the Catechism before their confirmation.
Most of the parishioners were illiterate so the churches were very colourful with wall paintings depicting scenes from the Bible. Stained glass windows and screens portrayed the saints. People would pray to a saint who, they believed, would intercede with the Almighty, on their behalf to answer their prayers. A common wall painting was the Doom which depicted the people being weighed in scales at their death and if found wanting they were shovelled into the fiery mouth of Purgatory while those who had led a virtuous life rose up to Heaven. The well-off, educated members of the parish might own a Book of Hours, an illustrated book of prayers, for private devotions. Wealthy members established Chantries for priests to sing masses for the founders soul.
The church services were in Latin. At Mass the communicants received the bread, believed to be the body of Christ, and the priest received the wine, the blood of Christ.
Religion imposed rules relating to food: Wednesday and Friday were non-meat days and Saturday was sometimes a fast day. Fish was eaten throughout Lent and dairy products were prohibited. Feast days were celebrated with fairs, also groups put on plays depicting scenes from the Bible and pilgrimages were made to Canterbury, Rome, Jerusalem and other holy sites.
John Matthews, local historian, opened the
November meeting by declaring that there is a lot of history attached to
the Mardyke but also a lot of brambles and nettles! The name means
“boundary ditch” and part of the Mardyke forms the boundary between
Barstable and Chafford hundreds. The main source of the Mardyke flows
south from Holden’s Wood in Warley, down to Bulphan, across the fens to
North Stifford and on to Purfleet where it flows into the Thames near
the QEII Bridge. For most of its course, it forms the boundaries of
parishes through which it flows. Various tributaries were described -
two flow from Thorndon Park, another flows west from the Plotlands in
the Langdon Hills and another flows east from Upminster.
Susan Yates celebrated the 60th Anniversary by telling the history of the society
Thurrock Local History Society Meeting: 18th January, 2013 - meeting cancelled due to bad weather.
The February meeting saw 76 members and visitors
welcoming Brian D’Arcy for his illustrated talk on the Crown Jewels.
After his service in the army, Brian became a Yeoman Warder at the Tower
of London and was subsequently promoted to the Curator of the Crown
Jewels. He lived for just over 23 years within the walls of the Tower.
The AGM was very well attended by 71 members and 1
visitor. The Chairman gave a very positive report on the previous year’s
activities which included a coach trip to the Olympic Park, a boat trip
along the Thames and the 60th Anniversary Dinner held at Orsett Hall as
well as the Society’s usual presence at Horndon Feast & Fayre and the
Orsett Show. The monthly speakers were well received and continue to
fill the hall with an audience of between 70 – 80.
Professor Geoffrey T Martin of Cambridge University and Patron of the Society, addressed an audience of 78 members and friends on the re-excavation of the tomb of King Horemheb, who became Pharaoh of Egypt in 1306 BC (approx) following the death of the young Pharaoh Tutankhamun. He was believed to be of lowly birth and therefore not related to the royal family but had risen to Commander in Chief of the Army and was named by Tutankhamun as his successor.
As was the custom, Horemheb’s tomb was built before his death in the Valley of the Kings (burial KV57). It was excavated in 1908 by Theodore Davis with photographs taken by Harry Burton who later worked with Howard Carter, the excavator of Tutankamun’s tomb. Horemheb’s tomb had been plundered but they found magnificent bas relief wall paintings and many items deemed to be necessary to protect and to sustain the king on his journey into the next world,
Professor Martin conducted a re-excavation of the site during 2006 – 2007. The shaft leading down to the tomb was densely packed with debris, also the chamber containing the sarcophagus. Painstaking excavation revealed items of no interest to plunderers such as arrows, bronze nails, fragments of vessels, pottery shards, beads and wine jars. Egyptologists glean much information from these objects and Professor Martin praised the wonderful local men who worked tirelessly on the excavation.
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