About


Very many thanks to Phil Gyford for
his help with ‘translating’ all my stuff
into the language of a website.

And especially for solving my innumerable problems.
He must often have regretted getting involved.
But then it was all his idea !

 


Also to Sue Gyford and to Nick Smith
for their patient help with the
mysteries of computing.

Many many people have contributed
their knowledge and experience to all parts of this
website, for which I am tremendously grateful. I’ve done my best to mention those people as I’ve gone along. In particular I have been allowed to copy an overwhelming number of photographs. .

But here I’ll also refer to some helpful and inspiring people who were around when I started in the late sixties.

The late Maurice Smith carried out research in the Essex Record Office for many years, and starting in 1970 produced a series of booklets. He also made some larger typed volumes. He took photos and collected old ones, many of which might never have been known otherwise. All these are now in Witham Library and the Essex Record Office, and possibly Howbridge School. In the end, Maurice moved to Bournemouth, so was perhaps less well-known to later generations than he might have been.

Working at a similar time was the Witham Archaeological Research Group (WARG), who excavated part of the Roman site at Ivy Chimneys. I was a member when we moved on to  buildings. People who dated buildings in the UK had been shocked during the previous few years by the work of Essex’s Cecil Hewitt, who applied his own knowledge of carpentry. To know more, do see Cecil’s obituary at
https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/obituary-cecil-hewett-1201460.html
https://bit.ly/2WWfZUi
We in WARG were very fortunate that one of our members was Mike Wadhams,  a friend of Cecil’s. Mike, together with Betty Loring, led the group’s work in Witham. The reports about the buildings are in the ERO in the group T/P 198.
I never really understood building construction myself, and in 1967 I was despatched on my first ever visit to the Essex Record Office to find relevant documents. Of course we found that both structure and documentation are needed to understand a historic building

 

 


lNone of these people had modern technology – an old typewriter at best.


Once upon a time, I thought that a Witham website could contain everything that I wanted it to. But of course it can’t. I am still surrounded by loads of files and papers, which could be really interesting on the website. But I shall never have the time to put them there. So let me explain that I am leaving all my stuff about the history of Witham to the Essex Record Office, with their consent. So you should eventually be able to see it there when I’m gone, if you make the right arrangements. As well as the files I mentioned, there are boxes of photos. Also a large card index to people and places, which I don’t add to now, but I still find very useful

SEARCHING THE WEBSITE

To find a word (or phrase), first type it into the Search box at the top right of this or any page. Then click Go or the magnifying glass. That will produce all the relevant posts, one after the other.

Then to find the actual appearance(s) of the word or phrase, use Ctrl+F, or the equivalent for your system (Cmd+F for Macs). That will enable you to fill in what you want again, probably at the bottom of the page.


THE CATEGORIES are described below.
You can choose one of them by clicking it at the top of this or any page, and then choosing what you want from the list.

(1) ARTICLES IN THE BRAINTREE AND WITHAM TIMES:
I started writing these articles in 2010 and  have stopped in 2018, at least for the time being. them. The most recent one was usually put into this WordPress collection a month or two after it appeared in the newspaper.

At the beginning I was restricted to about 400 words each, with a photo. Later I had more space. I’ve stopped writing the articles now, because of pressure of time.

The subject matter was mine to choose. Sometimes I tried to make it topical. I am always amazed how many more subjects there were left.

I seem to have concentrated on the last few hundred years, because that is where I feel most at home. In particular, I have often written about the 20th century. This has enabled me to quote from the memories of some wonderful Witham people, whom I shall discuss below.

(2) INTERVIEWS WITH WITHAM RESIDENTS:
In 1976 I had been collecting information about the history of Witham for nearly ten years. I had this niggling feeling that I ought also to be collecting the reminiscences of Witham residents. But it did sound rather complicated. Essex University was a well-known centre for “oral history”, so I phoned there for advice and spoke to Alun Howkins (later a Professor). He said he always told people just to go out and get on with it. So that’s what I did – no more excuses.

It was indeed complicated and I made lots of mistakes. However, I think the people that I met managed to rise above my incompetence, and to speak eloquently about a world which has now long gone. Whenever I happen now to re-read what someone told me, I am always impressed by how articulate and moving many of their words were.

The interviews were recorded onto cassette tapes and then transcribed by myself, Tina Bailey, Jean Bentley, Karen Potter and Ruth Silverlock. An arduous task for which everyone’s assistance was most invaluable and for which I was very grateful.

The tapes are numbered in order of the date on which they were recorded. If we used two tapes on one day, they will have consecutive numbers. If I revisited the same people another day, the numbers of their tapes wouldn’t be consecutive if someone else came in between. To find them by name use the Search box, the list of tags, or the list of tapes produced by clicking Interviews at the top right of the page.

I did not have a questionnaire or a structure. We tried to concentrate on what the person was interested in. So you’ll need to search for subjects or places or other people separately if that what you’re looking for.

The recording equipment was primitive by today’s standards; I never even got round to clip-on mikes. What with that, quiet voices, a canary, etc, some of the recordings are not very clear. Anyway, they are held at the Essex Sound and Video Archive. To listen to any of them, please contact them at ero.enquiry@essex.gov.uk or 033301 32500.

(3) LECTURES:
While I was taping reminiscences, from time to time I recorded a lecture or a talk about local history, not always about Witham. I have put these in their own category, found under Sections at top right of the page, in date order. Not many have been transcribed,  but the original recordings are held at the Essex Sound and Video Archive. To listen to a recording, please contact them at ero.enquiry@essex.gov.uk or 033301 32500. Some of the recordings are not of very good quality, having been made at a distance in a variety of halls.

(4) PEOPLE:
Assorted information about people and families, including most of those included in the interviews. Arranged in surname order. List found by clicking People at the top right of the page.

(5) PLACES:
Information relating to Places of every sort.
List found by clicking Places at the top right of the page.
Here I must mention Street Numbers. They were argued about in Witham after a proposal was made in 1912. But they were not introduced till the 1920s. The Witham Urban District Council fixed the numbers to the doors, though they probably omitted the grander houses, which continued for a time to use their names.. The people in favour were the ones who had to run the postal service or the census. Most of the rest just didn’t want to pay higher rates.

Anyway, I use Street Numbers for buildings of all ages, even if the building didn’t actually have number at the time I’m writing about. I’ve just got in the habit of it over the years. For instance, see photo M0096 (the same as the photo on the first Home page, just before this one)


ALSO SEE:

http://www.gyford.com/janet/  
for my witham books. Especially:

http://www.gyford.com/janet/books/history-witham/
to download the full “A History of Witham”

http://www.historyhouse.co.uk/placeW/essexw30.html
for Witham’s pages on “History House”, which have a good collection
of factual information, and suggestions where to find more.