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Newland Street preparing for the 1897 Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria
Daniel Defoe, Tour through the Eastern Counties of England, 1722: “Being obliged to come thus far into the uplands, I made it my road to pass through Witham, a pleasant, well-situated market town, in which, and in its neighbourhood, there are as many gentlemen of good fortunes and families as I believe can be met with in so narrow a compass in any of the three counties of which I make this circuit.”
James Collier, 1745 (Mayor of Harwich). ” The most Remarkable Towns that we passed through were Chelmsford, Witham, & Colchester. The former is but an indifferent place, but has a delightful walk for the Ladies in the Church yard. Whitham [sic] is a good handsome Town, & has many good houses; but in particular two, one a very ancient & excessive pile of building which belongs to Sr Edward Southcote; the other a Modern house in which the Earl of Abercorn resides. The name of this place is universally known on account of the Spaw [sic], which has two very agreable walks about it”.
Neither of these two “good houses” survive today. Sir Edward’s “excessive pile of building” was Witham Place in Powershall End. Reading how excessive it was always makes me sad that there seem to be no surviving pictures of it. All that remains of the building today now is one room, which is the part of the Spring Lodge Community Centre, known as the Barn. Close examination shows that originally it was part of the big house. We also have the long and imposing brick wall which still stands along the road.The Earl’s house, which was “Modern” by comparison, was the Grove, probably dating from the early 18th century. It was demolished in 1932 and the site is now mostly occupied by the Grove estate.
The Pictorial Record, published c.1899, wrote : “Witham, for instance, is one of the prettiest and brightest towns we know …..It has been eulogistically and enthusiastically described by many writers, and the complimentary phrase ‘The Garden of Essex’ has been more than once applied to it.”
Miss Dorothy Stoneham, born in 1900: “It was full of these old fashioned people really you know, old-fashioned gentry.”
Mrs Dorothy Ireland, born in 1894: “Oh, it was a snobbish place.”
Mrs Margaret English, born in 1890: “Well they didn’t like Crittall’s [metal window factory] coming to Witham [in 1920]. There were the Miss Luards that lived up at Ivy Chimneys right up the Chelmsford Road and this place was very, very Conservative and I think they went to visit my mother-in-law and they called it a blot on the landscape. That put Witham on the map when Crittall’s started up there”.
Mr Bert Godfrey, born in 1906: “Before Crittall’s was built, it was nearly all agricultural, no industry, or very little. I remember them coming. I think people were quite pleased to think there was work coming here. It did make a big difference.”
TheWithamBros, Video Tour of Witham, 2011, “Witham is brilliant!”