You can also find things in a different way, by using the Categories. This does not show you individual words like the previous method does. It will just show you which of nine categories or subjects I have chosen to put an item into. This is useful if you’re not quite sure what you’re looking for, or what its name is. The names of the categories are across the tops of each page and/or under MENU. Clicking one of them, will produce a list in blue of all the items in that category. Then clicking one of the items in the list will produce the item itself. So if you start by clicking on the Places category, then click The Cage in the list, you get an account of the history of the Cage. You might not have known there was a cage if you hadn’t seen it on the list.
This all gives me an opportunity to discuss the categories, which I’ve numbered.
(1) HOME and ABOUT
This is the part you are reading now. https://www.janetgyford.com/ will take you to the beginning.
My books are listed with details at https://www.janetgyford.com/books/
Most are out of print, but some of those can be read online. For instance, the latest, A History of Witham, can be downloaded in full at
Also see https://historyhouse.co.uk/placeW/essexw30.html, part of the History House series, which has census records, photos, maps etc. and is very useful.
(3) ARTICLES IN THE BRAINTREE AND WITHAM TIMES
There is a list at https://www.janetgyford.com/articles/
The articles are numbered in the order in which they were published, and have the number at the beginning of the heading. Clicking any article on the list will bring up its text.
I started writing these articles for the newspaper in 2010. and stopped in 2018 because of shortage of time. At the beginning I was restricted to about 400 words in each article, with a photo. Later I had more space. The subject matter was mine to choose. Sometimes I tried to make it topical. I was always amazed at how many more subjects there still were to write about.
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.
is a list of the photos. They are numbered more or less in the order in which I acquired them, with an M at the beginning (e.g. M1234). This number is very important when there are so many photos, because it is the only unique feature of a photo. There may be duplicates of the image or the title, but only one number M1234.
Clicking on a photo’s entry on the list, will take you to it, at full size, with further details below it. From here you can get back to the list again by clicking Gallery | List in blue above the photo. From other routes you get a smaller and less focussed version of a photo, for instance from a search. Clicking once or twice on this smaller picture will produce a full screen-sized one.
Since the website was started, I have devoted most of my time to putting more photos into it. Firstly, because people like them, and secondly, because some of them are unique, in that we don’t know whether there are any copies of them anywhere else. So it seemed a good plan to preserve a copy in the website.
I have started with ‘old photos’, taken by many different people, nearly all since about 1900. There are about 3,000 of them. Dozens and dozens of kind people have generously allowed me to make copies of their own and their families’ photos. At first, fifty years ago, this meant my taking them to a local photographic shop, but eventually scanning at home became the way to go.
If I finish putting in these Old photos, I hope to turn to the colour slides that I took myself in the 1970s and 1980s.
(5) INTERVIEWS WITH WITHAM RESIDENTS
What I have put here on the website are verbatim typescripts of the interviews.
In 1976 I had been collecting information about the history of Witham for nearly ten years. I had this niggling feeling that it was even more important to be talking to residents about their memories, which would all be unique. 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 the late 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. I’ve always been very grateful indeed to Alun for his advice, and I’ll readily pass the message on to anyone else in the same situation.
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.
Incidentally, over the years I have sometimes encountered people who wanted to conduct interviews, but who were only prepared to talk to people who were already well-known and who had a reputation for being specially interesting. But I have found that the most fascinating people were the ones that no-one had heard of, and who had never spoken much about their lives before. In fact it was sometimes difficult to convince them that it was their own lives that I’d like to hear about, rather than general Witham tales.
The interviews were recorded onto cassette tapes and then transcribed by myself and also others whom I employed to do the work:- 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. To find the interviewees by name use a Search box, or the list of tapes produced by clicking Interviews at the top right of any page.
I did not have a questionnaire or a structure. We tried to concentrate on what the person was interested in. But a search for subjects or places or other people would pick out what the people talked about.
The recording equipment was primitive by today’s standards; I never even got round to clip-on mikes, and the tape recorders themselves were small battery-operated ones. What with that, quiet voices, a canary, etc, some of the recordings are not very clear. But since I first wrote this, the sound on most of them has been improved by being digitised, This was done by the Essex Sound and Video Archive at the Essex Record Office, and some of those are online. To discover the current arrangements, or to listen to any of the recordings, please contact email@example.com or 033301 32500.
While I was recording people’s reminiscences, from time to time I recorded a lecture or a talk about local history, not always about Witham. I have put these in date order. Some of the recordings are not of very good quality, having been made at a distance in a variety of halls. But some may have been digitised like the interviews mentioned above. Not many have been transcribed, but the original recordings are held at the Essex Sound and Video Archive. To make enquiries or to listen to a recording, please contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org or 033301 32500.
These posts contain assorted information about people and families and companies. A list can be found by clicking People at the top right of the page.
Also see https://historyhouse.co.uk/placeW/essexw30.html, part of the History House series, which has census records, photos, maps etc. and has suggestions about where to find out more.
Information relating to places of every sort.
A list can be found by clicking Places at the top right of the page.
(8a) Here I must talk about Street numbers. In 1912 it was proposed that Witham’s buildings should be numbered. This was rejected, but the debate continued. It was during the 1920s that numbering was finally introduced. The Witham Urban District Council provided the numbers and fixed them to the doors. They seem to have omitted the grander houses, which continued for a time to use their names. The people in favour of numbers were the ones who had to run the postal service or the census. Most of the others just didn’t want to pay higher rates to cover the installation.
Please note that I use these Street numbers to describe a building of any age, even if I am writing about a time hundreds of years before the numbers were even thought of. I’ve just got in the habit of it over the years. Sometimes it gets quite complicated working out which building is which, but there are documents that help, such as the Tithe Map and Award for 1839. The manor records are especially useful. With them you can usually trace a property through from the 1680s to the 1930s, with its owners and occupiers. And in the 1930s its Street number will often be given. This may not work in other manors -Witham had unusual customs regarding freeholders.
A list can be found by clicking Subjects at the top right of the page.
Information relating to subjects, i.e. topics which are not quite people and not quite places, such as bicycles, the First World War, strikes etc.