Manors. Witham (Chipping) and Newland.

When I was preparing the Post about the Town Hall, I started to write about  manorial records, and their value in local history. But this was breaking up the Town Hall story too much, and so I started this separate Post instead.

The customs of the “twin” manors of Witham (Chipping) and Newland were  unusual, in a way that is especially useful to us. The 18th-century historian Philip Morant wrote that they were “very extraordinary”. I began trying to explain why, but it was taking too big a bite out of the Town Hall. So I’ve started a separate post about those manors instead.

This was because of the role of those superior tenants who were known as freeholders. In most manors they really were free, and didn’t owe the lord of the manor anything, and so were not often mentioned in the Court records. where we look for our information. But in our two manors they often had to pay an entry fine for a “First Purchase”. You only escaped if you already belonged to the manor, either by being born in it, or having another freehold already. You can read the satisfaction of the Steward when he could firmly write “First purchase” into the Court Book, and claim the fine. Once you were a freeholder you would also be noted in the regular rentals or surveys of the whole manor.

This means that we can often trace the history of a plot of land or a building, back from the 1920s right back to medieval times. The Town Hall site is a good example, and most of the rest of Newland Street was freehold too. After 1680 the plots were numbered, which helped the process. Just note that other manors in Witham like Powershall and Blunts hall did not have this custom. And that a few parts of Newland Street, like Batsford, were in manors of their own.

Nearly all the relevant manorial documents are in the Essex Record Office, . I would like to put more about them on this website, but I could say that about many subjects.

Public Health in the 19th century

Public Health etc in Witham, in the 19th century

Summary by Janet Gyford, adapted from one first written for Dated Buildings Survey in 1992, re Faragon Terrace, 59-67 Bridge Street.
Retyped October 2002. 

See also notes on PRO MH 13/209, read since this was written.

Edward Cresy made a report to the General Board of Health in 1850 about Witham. About Bridge Street he said that ‘the stagnant open drains, and the absence of all arrangements requisite for decency, are still producing their usual effects – fever and demoralisation. Many other parts of the town were described in an even more stomach-churning fashion. The general arrangements were common to most towns before they had main sewerage and water supply systems. Cresy contrasted their inadequacies with the ‘neat fronts of the homes looking out onto the well-swept pavement’. There do appear to have been drains in a few streets, including about half of Newland Street, but these were probably mainly for collecting surface water; they were not flushed by any other water supply, and any matter that was able to move along them went straight into the River Brain. Waste from privies and from the few water closets usually went first into cess-pits, and may have been taken away sometimes, but more often overflowed and made its way along the ground to the nearest hollow or open ditch, and sometimes thence to the river. Water supplies came from wells, springs, and also from the same river; there was a public pump in the centre of the town, which was to be moved to the northern end near the Grove in the 1850s.

Cresy’s investigation was made under the 1848 Public Health Act, following a petition from 128 Witham ratepayers (nearly half the total). The result was the establishment of a Board of Health for Witham in 1852, with power under the 1848 Act to charge a rate for providing proper water supply and drainage. George Thomasin himself was a member from 1858 until his death. The Witham Board’s role in supervising the sanitation of individual new buildings proceeded as shown by the Building Plans in the ERO. Making arrangements for the town as a whole proved to be much more difficult.

In 1853 the Board commissioned plans for a water supply sand sewerage system for the whole town; the two aspects were linked, as sewers were needed to take away used water, and water was necessary to carry material along the sewers. During discussions about the proposals, it was noted that cholera had re-appeared in the country; in fact there were already several outbreaks in other parts of Essex. An earlier epidemic in 1848-9 had killed over 70,000 people in Britain as a whole, so this new outbreak was potentially very worrying; the Witham Board urged renewed and diligent inspection of nuisances. As a result of these country-wide epidemics, it became conclusively established for the first time that cholera was caused by contaminated water supply.

However, the Witham Board received a petition about its proposed scheme in December 1855 ‘expressing the hope and desire that no further outlay of money should be attempted’, and as a result, the plans were ‘laid aside’, ‘because of the great expense’. The petition came from ‘Thomas Tomkin Esquire and 93 other ratepayers and inhabitants of Witham’. Perhaps surprisingly in the circumstances, Thomas Tomkin was a doctor (he ran a private lunatic asylum in Maldon Road).

There was no further action for a full ten years. Then in 1865 there was yet more cholera in the county; the Witham Board received a letter from one of the inhabitants about the town’s drainage, and set up a Committee to consider the matter. During the following two years, several more enquiring letters were received, but there was no word from the Committee. At last during autumn 1867, some consideration was given to the revived plans from 1853, and to two new schemes by rival Chelmsford engineers, Jabez Church and Frederick Chancellor. Chelmsford was often referred to as an example during the Witham debate, as it was just completing its own new scheme after an earlier unsuccessful one. Chancellor was Surveyor to the Board there. Several other Essex towns had also completed new schemes in the 1860s.

In December 1867 a serious typhoid epidemic broke out in the parish of Terling, which adjoins Witham to the west. A report about it, written for the Privy Council, blamed the contamination of water supply by sewage, and also drew attention to the ‘filthiness’ of Witham. It suggested that the inhabitants of the town dared not complain for fear of reprisals, both from their landlords and from the Inspector of Nuisances, who was also Relieving Officer and therefore controlled the dispensation of poor relief. Particular attention was drawn in the report to ‘several groups of cottages belonging to a Mr Thomasin, a gentleman of a large fortune. He has a seat on the Local Board and yet so much has he neglected the dwellings of the poor which belonged to him that the magistrates have been compelled to summon him before them’. This summons was in January 1868, and related to Bridge Street, probably to a site adjoining the predecessors of Faragon Terrace (59-67 Bridge Street). It was for allowing a ‘foul and offensive privy, a nuisance and injurious to health’. Henry Risbury, a skinner at the tanyard, had reported that the overflow soaked under the foundations of his adjoining cottage, and Petty Sessions ordered Thomasin to make a proper brick cess-pool, with a cemented side next to Mr Risbury’s dwelling.

In February 1868, a representative from the Home Office visited Witham. As a result, the General Board of Health, namely the national body, threatened to take the provision of a town scheme into its own hands, which it was permitted to do under the Sanitary Act of 1866. At the same time, two noisy public meetings vehemently opposed the idea of a comprehensive scheme. At these meetings, timeless issues were discussed, such as the nature of democracy, represented in the relative powers of the elected Board of Health and of public meetings, and the principles of cost-benefit analysis, namely ‘a question of pounds shillings and pence against life, health and disease’.

The Board stood its ground against ‘the public’, although its members still had to argue about which engineer should be favoured. In August 1868 it was finally agreed to adopt the plans of Jabez church. These included a well, reservoir and pump, behind the Swan Public House in Newland Street (now no. 153); the water was to be pumped up to a water tower holding 100,000 gallons in the new Collingwood Road. The land for the latter was given by the owner, Reverend William M Oliver of Bovinger, in return for the setting out of the road across his land by the Board (an arrangement similar to that for the setting out of Guithavon Street in 1842). The sewage was to drain into a tank east of the Maldon railway line; further treatment of the sewage was still a thing of the future. £6,000 was to be borrowed to pay for the scheme, to be repaid out of the rates over 30 years.

Interestingly, the beginning of the work provoked scepticism from yet another doctor; this was the 81-year old Dr Henry Dixon, formerly of Witham, and then of Rivenhall. In January 1869 he wrote in his diary:

Witham is in an uproar. Contractors and navvies are cutting up the streets to form a culvert as a main drain to all the cesspools and other offensive matters from the dwellings … into which the householders will have to carry drains at their own expense. Water is to be pumped up by steam to flush the drains … The expense of this formidable work will be not less than £8,000 and this is so small a parish … will I expect be ruinous to many. I think £400 or £500 would if judiciously used be fully sufficient … I have a full knowledge of every cottage and locality … that required attention and furthermore know something of drainage.

In contrast, the short-lived scurrilous local newspaper, The Tomtit, was supportive of the scheme. Among other comments it included a ‘Song of the Drainage’ in eight verses, one of which urged ‘In the advance of time’s great changes, in the question of our health, list to what the Board arranges, tho’ little it affects your wealth.

The town’s new drainage and water system was completed in 1869. The Board took powers to enforce people to connect their properties. These powers were suspended temporarily as early as 1871 because of inadequacies in the water supply; these were overcome by new work on the well, and extra help with the pump, but the supply was still probably an intermittent one compared to that from a modern system, and several subsequent enlargements of it were needed in subsequent years.

The Town Hall

61 Newland Street,Witham,
which was the George Inn till 1806-07,
then the Bank till 1939.

This work has only been made possible with the help of Phil Gyford. He has solved my numerous “technical” problems, willingly sharing his years of experience. In fact it was he who first suggested that I have a website, and I think that on the whole it’s been a good thing. Thank you, Phil.

Note: Some references are included in the text. For others, see the Chelmsford Chronicle, and books by Arthur Brown and by Maurice Smith, listed in Books. When there, look at the list that is all about Witham, and also at the one which is only partly about Witham.

The main text is black.       The main quotations                                                               are dark blue.
Captions are purple.       Digressions are green.


The building which is now the Town Hall was one of the most important places in Witham for many centuries. So it is  fitting that it should have again become a hub of activity in the 1990s, when it was adopted as Witham’s Town Hall.

Most of this account will be given in chronological order, but I’ll start by making some general points.

The Town Hall is now number 61 Newland Street (or High Street which is a kind of nickname for Newland Street). Street numbers weren’t introduced in Witham until the 1920s, but as I have done here, I might quite often use “61” just to identify a place, even at a time before it had formally acquired a number.

The plot was about in the centre of Newland Street, on the south side.

Above is a map of Witham in 1680, drawn by the late Charles Bannister for the end paper of my book “Witham 1500-1700. Making a Living”. The information for the map was provided by the late Mike Wadhams and by myself. Until I took it out to use here, I’d almost forgotten what a fine and expressive creation Charles had made.

Above is an enlargement from part of the same 1680 map, showing the town centre.

The George Inn is named in the centre of the second, close-up, version of the map, on the south-east side of Newland Street. Over to the west on the other side of the road, we can see “The Market Cross”. The Cross was the market building.

There had been an earlier market at Chipping Hill, but the first grant for a market in Newland Street itself was given in 1212. That was when ‘Newland’ or the “Half Acres” was first being set out and built along Newland Street by the Knights Templars .The original plots were usually about 100 feet wide. Many of them were divided or merged over the years.  I estimate that the George was made of two original plots.

The market and the George Inn must have been very good for each other after the George opened in the 1400s, in that both would have attracted crowds of people. But strangely, I don’t remember seeing any reference to the market amongst any of the papers about the George. The second map above shows us that the Lion Inn and the Spread Eagle were also near the market – that whole area must have been very busy. This a drawing for the cover of my “Witham 1500-1700. Making a Living”, made by the late Charles Bannister. It shows a “conjectural” view of the market in 1680.

I think this is intended to show a building (now the site of number 64) projecting into the middle of the widest part of Newland Street. This arrangement often started with a row of stalls, which in due course were replaced by buildings. It was quite a common arrangement for medieval markets, especially those of the Knights Templars. The observer today would be looking up the street from the bus stops. Our site, numbers 59-61, would be on the other side of the road on the far right of the drawing. Looking at the book cover, you’ll find that this drawing is red; Phil Gyford waved his magic wand to make it white.

Another important point to make is that the boundaries of the plot changed over time. Until 1806-07, we’ll be talking about the George Inn (59-61), whose site was twice as wide as today’s Town Hall.

Above. Before 1806-07. Red, The George (now 59-61). Wide plot, about 100 feet across. Plain plaster frontage. Probably the equivalen of two Templars Halfacre plots.

Then, after 1806-07, the left hand half of the site, as seen from the back (61) became the Bank, and eventually the Town Hall. So after those dates, that is the half that I’ll be describing (61). The other half was sold to the Pattisson family (59). So our remaining site, i.e. the Bank and later the Town Hall, then occupied only one medieval Templars Halfacre plot.

Above.  After 1806-07. Red, The Bank (now 61). Narrow plot, about 50 feet across. New brick frontage. Probably the equivalent of one Templars Halfacre plot.

This all happens later in the story, but is useful for understanding what was happening at different times, and which building was involved when.

Brenda Watkin, the historic buildings expert, was completely familiar with this  division of the original building into two, just by looking at the structure. She gave a fascinating talk about Witham to the Witham History Group in 1995.  Tape 169. Talk by Brenda Watkin, about some historic buildings in Witham. (Do read it all).

She confirmed that “only part of the [original] building is still there. Where you’ve got the gap between the Town Hall and …… [59 Newland Street], the Town Hall would have continued all the way across”. Where it was divided is where we now have the scarily narrow track into the Town Hall car park. She also described its “impressive” structure and compares it favourably to other “prestigious” buildings in Essex.

And she also mentioned the long wing at the back of the building which is such an important part of the Town Hall today. It is generally thought to date from the 1500s, but apparently one of the important timber clues about its date does not survive.

The beginning

The late Mike Wadhams carried out extensive research into this and other Essex buildings. He was extremely knowledgeable about all aspects of historic buildings, we in Witham were extremely fortunate that he lived here.

Being born and bred in Witham, and fascinated by old buildings, he studied our site in great detail. He estimated its date of construction as being in the 1400s. He described its “hardwood frame, of both fine quality timber and workmanship”. He also wrote that “the quality of the oak is exceptionally high”. Just as Brenda Watkin, mentioned earlier, talked about the building’s “impressive nature” in its original form.

What is not immediately obvious to the rest of us, is that much of that high quality oak still remains today unseen, inside the outer structure, as it does in many of the other buildings in Witham and all over Essex. So Mike was able to produce this drawing of the original building of about 1400, when he found much of the original wooden frame to be still hidden away there in 1970. As it is today. Right at the end of this essay there are photos of the beams that re-appeared during the refurbishment which created the Town Hall in 1993.

Above, the framework of numbers 59-61 Newland Street, begun during the 1400s.  I think that the drawing  shows all of the original building (i.e. twice the present one), with the long front of the drawing representing the front of the building. If so, the upper floor is projecting a little way forwards from the lower floor, i.e. it is jettied. This would be what Brenda Watkin called the “long-wall jetty”.
Deduced and drawn by the late Mike Wadhams for his long article on “The Development of Buildings in Witham from 1500 to circa 1880“. Reprinted from Post-Medieval Archaeology,  volume 6, 1972.
At the very end of this post, you can see some of the timbers as they appeared in 1993.

Happily, the written record supports these practical observations.  In particular it also suggests that the building probably originated from the 1400s. The information comes from the Manor of Newland’s oldest surviving rental, of which the first, main, left-hand part, dates from 1413/4 and the second, briefer, right-hand part, is an update made in 1485/6 . Below I have copied some lines from the right-hand section that show us where we are. As shown below,They read :
“XXl d. – now of John Dyer called the George”

This does show that the George existed by 1485/6, when the lines on the right, were written, though it’s not clear how long before.

The left hand column, not shown here, starting from 1413/14, names the people who in turn were owners earlier on, perhaps before the George arrived. They were William Dyer and Alice his wife for a tenement formerly of Richard Taverner, then after them, John att Holdiche, and after him John Makehatt. You’ll notice the some of the surnames are derived from occupations. In earlier days they might actually describe the person’s current occupation. However, I think that by this time, the 1400s, a person’s surname usually came from their father.

The name Dyer, whenever it originated, does serve to remind us about the great medieval cloth industry. It was followed in north Essex by the “New Draperies”, which then declined during the 1700s. Witham was involved in both of these movements, but so far I haven’t found anything to connect the George itself with the industry. And the only good book that I know about was written in 1970 – “East Anglia’s Golden Fleece” by Nigel Heard.

This gives me a chance to stress the value of manorial records in local history. The customs of the “twin” manors of Witham (Chipping) and Newland were  unusual, in a way that is especially useful to us. The 18th-century historian Philip Morant wrote that they were “very extraordinary”. I began trying to explain but it was taking too long, taking too big a bite out of the Town Hall. So I’ve started a separate post about manors instead, at

This was because of the role of those superior tenants who were known as freeholders. In most manors they really were free, and didn’t owe the lord of the manor anything, and so were not often mentioned in the Court records. where we look for our information. But in our two manors they often had to pay an entry fine for a “First Purchase”. You only escaped if you already belonged to the manor, either by being born in it, or having another freehold already. You can read the satisfaction of the Steward when he could firmly write “First purchase” into the Court Book, and claim the fine. Once you were a freeholder you would also be noted in the regular rentals or surveys of the whole manor.

This means that we can often trace the history of a plot of land or a building, back from the 1920s right back to medieval times. The Town Hall site is a good example, and most of the rest of Newland Street was freehold too. After 1680 the plots were numbered, which helped the process. Just note that other manors in Witham like Powershall and Blunts hall did not have this custom. And that a few parts of Newland Street, like Batsford, were in manors of their own.

Nearly all the relevant manorial documents are in the Essex Record Office, .

Wall paintings, probably dating from the late 16th century, were discovered on one wall within the building, during alterations in the 1940s. Rev Benton describes them has having an “ornamental vessel of fruit on a grotesque mask, also scrolls of acanthus foliage etc.”  He thinks that “it must have been, in its pristine state, a typical specimen of the exuberant style of Renaissance ornament of the latter half of the sixteenth century”

Above, 16th century wall paintings in the George, (from Rev G Montagu Benton’s article “Some Domestic Wall Paintings of Essex“, Part II, in Trans Essex Arch. Soc., vol  24 NS, 1944/49).


Our building became the George Inn for several hundred years after it appeared in the 1400s. For some time, it seems to have been the largest and busiest inn in Witham.

In the 1600s, it quite often figured in local events (see my book, Public Spirit, Dissent in Witham and Essex, 1500-1700, page 89 onwards). I wrote earlier about the busy crowds that would have been attracted by the George and the market. They did vary in character. For instance, in 1620, the innkeeper, Robert Bunny, was in trouble “for admitting unlawful assemblies upon the Sabbath Day, spending their time in drinking, playing and the like, in the time of Divine Service”.

Then in 1628 the inn was at the centre of a violent dispute in Newland Street between the townspeople and some Irish soldiers. The soldiers were billeted locally. Some of the officers were staying at the George.  In the eyes of many Witham residents at that time, to be Irish like the soldiers, was to be  Catholic, and unacceptable .
(see B W Quintrell, Gentry Factions and the Witham Affray, 1628, in EAH, 3rd series, vol.10, 1978).


It was during the 1740s and 1750s that the Witham Spa flourished, in the area of Powershall End (see The Spa at Witham). Inns like the George received visitors who had come to take the spa waters. And there was a busy traffic through the town with  horses and coaches and passengers. The Assembly Room at the Spa was the centre of activities there, and accommodated frequent gatherings. There were many adverts like this one:

Ipswich Journal, WITHAM SPA IN ESSEX, May 23rd 1744
The Mineral Water being now in Perfection, constant attendance will be given at the Well. The MONTHLY ASSEMBLIES will be continued as last Year; the First of them will be on MONDAY the 11th of June: And the CARD ASSEMBLIES twice a week as usual. There will be a proper conveyance to carry those to the SPA that lodge at a Distance from it.

It is interesting that the largest room at the George also became known as the Assembly Room, and accommodated dances and other lavish events. Some of these social activities are thought to have taken place in the long wing behind the George, which extends back towards the garden. But we should remember that, as already mentioned, the main building itself  was then twice as wide as our Town Hall. So it was ideally suited for dances and the like.


Above. This painting of a stage-coach displays the name of its proprietor, William Sheldrick, the Witham man who is mentioned below. We can also see the names of  places on its route. It travels from Chelmsford to London, but also visits Coggeshall, Kelvedon and Witham. The painting comes from the book “Jane Austen. My Dear Cassandra“.

During the 1600s, there were developments in all aspects of travel by coach. The mail coaches, carrying the post, were the most important. Witham was in charge of the mail route from Yarmouth to Brentwood.  Thomas Levitt was landlord of the George, and was made Postmaster of Witham in 1673. This was a very beneficial job. He received £46 per year’s salary, and he was made exempt from many onerous responsibilities, such as jury service. Any  member of the public wishing to hire a horse had to pay him for the hiring, and also for accommodation and meals. However, within a few years he was facing difficulties. The officials wrote to Thomas  that

You cannot be ignorant of your great error in suffering the late mail to lie at your house neglected from ten of the clock at night till six in the morning, your men refusing to rise out of their beds to forward it, you know you are to answer for the neglects of your servants in this nature.
In 1677 he was told to leave.

There were always many changes in the system throughout the county. In 1772 the Colchester Stage Coach was re-routed through Coggeshall. As a result it also travelled  through Witham. It regularly stopped at the George at Witham in both directions, to leave and collect passengers. The Stage Coaches, were the most frequent sort of coach. They worked rather on the pattern of modern public transport.

Making a coach must have been a challenge, especially for public use. William Perry, a very skilful coachmaker, lived and worked in Witham from before the 1740s, and was a great asset to the town. In 1768 he was taken to London to show one of his coaches to the Postmaster General. It received glowing praise, particularly about its strength and light weight. The report called it a “simple but well-constructed machine”. As a result, Thomas was appointed to run the mail coach between London and Harwich, a long and important route, which coincidentally passed through Witham.

His “workshops and yard” were about where Stoffers and the Sorting Office are now (part of 5 Newland Street). In his day the site was called the Faulkon.

See M L Smith’s booklet, “Postal History of Witham”, 1971, for more about this, especially about the Mail coaches.


 A bill from Jeremiah Brown, perhaps from about the 1760s (My ref.582).

Jeremiah Brown  had previously been the keeper of the Three Mariners in Bridge Street (ERO D/DA T552).  When he moved up Newland Street to the George, he was well placed to take part in the busy life of the town. He  was one of the longest-serving innkeepers at the George.

Looking below at the goods for sale at the George in 1765, they perhaps belonged to someone who hired the space. But even if they did not belong to Jeremiah Brown himself, they belonged to one of his customers, and the customer thought that the George was a suitable place to take their exotic and genteel furniture.

Chelmsford Chronicle, 7 June 1765

1765 11th of June Instant.
A parcel of Genteel Furniture, consisting of two Curious Needle-work’d Beds, a curious white Quilt, a Cedar Snail, a Pier Glass, three feet by two feet two inches; two Stove-grates, a Repeating Table-Clock, by Naylor, & several other articles. The goods to be viewed on Monday the 10th Instant, & up to the time of sale, viz Tuesday the 11th at Eleven o’clock in the Forenoon. To be Sold. At the George Inn at Witham in Essex on Tuesday the 11th June.

Chelmsford Chronicle, 13 December 1765. It is sad to read that;
“On Saturday, died, the wife of Mr Brown, master of the George Inn at Witham”. She had only been at the George with Jeremiah for a few months.

It was not easy being an innkeeper. Jeremiah Brown was at the George for a long time,  from 1764 for  over 30 years. In 1766, he hired out one of his best mares, to be ridden to Ingatestone. It’s a  harrowing story.  The hired rider, Richard Franks of the Blue Posts, turned out to be “a monster rather than a man”, and the poor mare suffered from such terrible injuries that she died (ERO D/DO B24/52). It must have been with great fortitude that Jeremiah stayed at the George till 1795.

Now I’ll show a further selection of stories from the Chelmsford Chronicle from that time. Most of them relate to the George Inn itself. A few of the others don’t actually mention the George, but describe relevant aspects of the town in general. Quotations from the paper are shown in blue (dark azure). Commentary by me is in black.

1766. December 19th. Mr Herman Boaz, who during the week exhibited his  “Magical Deceptions” at Witham, to the great Satisfaction and Astonishment of the numerous crowd, will … perform in the Great concert Room at … Chelmsford.”
Note re. Boaz. “Methodists and people of weak minds have imagined he deals with a Demon.”

1767 June 12
“Witham is a pleasant and healthy Town, where are convenient houses for young gentlemen to board in.”

This relates to the announcement that a school was to be opened “for the instruction of youth” by Mr Caldow. During the 18th century, private schools flourished in respectable towns like Witham.

1768, September 23, p.4
Mr Aylmer’s Ball for the Young Ladies of his Boarding School, at Witham, will be on Wednesday 23rd Instant, at the Great Room at the George Inn.
To begin precisely at Seven O’clock.
N.B. No servants to be admitted into the Room till eleven o’clock.

Witham. 1769. September 1. Mr Aylmer’s Ball for the Young Ladies of his Boarding School at Witham, will be at the Assembly Room at the George, on Thursday the 10th day of September instant.
N.B. And that at Dedham on Weds the 20th Instant.
To begin at each Place exactly at Seven o’Clock.

1769, September 22, p4, col.4. [Poem] written on Mr Aylmer’s Ball at Witham for the Young ladies of his Boarding School. Talk no more of……?
‘Before this bright circle their splendour all fades.
More glister and pomp may be found among the great.
Here are order and innocence, far beyond?
Here receive full consent if from ….?
If noise be your aim to a hurricane fly.
Sweet promise of beauties ! young ……disguise,
Joy painted their cheeks and enliven’d their eyes
Their actions and looks such decorum express,
Such elegance shines in each part of their dress.
With such ease in the dance, tho it’s … less trace.
They …? they divide, they per’se and they follow;
They seem govern’d by Pallas, auth’rd by the Graces, And taught by Apollo’.
(some of this is hard to read)

The next event is 0ne of my favourites. It must be about fifty years ago that I first heard about Mr di Asuni, probably at one of Arthur Brown’s unmissable local history classes. Although born in Sardinia. Mr di Asuni spent over twenty years of his career in Britain, some of it, it seems, in  Witham, where he was quite at home. He was a prolific composer as well as performing on a variety of instruments.

For the Benefit of Mr Ghillini di Asuni
At the George at Witham, on Wednesday the 20th Instant, will be
A Concert of Music and A Ball
Tickets at Two Shillings and Sixpence each, are to be had at the Black Boy of Chelmsford and at the George at Witham. The many Favours by Mr Ghillini received from the Gentlemen and Ladies whilst he resided at Witham, encouraged him to hope for the Honour of their Company on the present Occasion.
N.B. The Concert will begin at seven o’Clock in the Evening.

Witham, Essex, Sept 16 1771.   At the Assembly Room at the George Inn at Witham, on Friday the 27th of this instant September, will be Mr Aylmer’s Ball, for the young ladies of his Boarding School. To begin at seven o’Clock precisely.
N.B. The best Music will be provided for Minuets, Allemande, Cotillons, and Country Dances.

1772, January 17, p.3, col.4
To be sold by Auction, At the George in Witham, on Tuesday the 21 day of January, and the four following evenings. Variety of new and second hand Books, consisting of Novels, Plays, Romances, History, School-Books, Shop Books, and various other Articles in the Book and Stationary [sic] Branches.
N.B. Each Days Sale will begin at Six o’Clock.

1772, March 20, p4. col.1
(and every month or two after that)

The first subscription Assembly, will be at the George at Witham, on Tuesday next the 24th instant.

1773, February 12, p.4, col.1
tolen or Strayed
From the George Inn in Witham, about three Weeks ago, a Brindle Greyhound Dog, with a white Slip on his Nose, and answers to the Name of Smaker, had on when lost a Brass Collar and Lock, with the following Letters on it, James Dellespine, Gun Street, near Spitalfields, London.
Whoever has got the said Dog, and will bring him to the George Inn aforesaid, shall be handsomely awarded for their Trouble, and no Questions asked.

1775, June 16, p.3, col.4. To be sold by auction. On Tuesday the 20th day of this instant June, at Mr Jeremiah Brown’s, at the George, Witham.
Two excellent Hunters, free from all blemish, and in fine condition; the one rising six and the other seven years, each able to carry sixteen stone; their paces are remarkably good, and they may be viewed at any time prior to the sales at the place aforesaid.

1776, 6 December, p.3, col.4.
Dr.Orsi acquaints the Public, that he will be at the George Inn at Witham, on Saturday 7th December, by 6 o’clock in the evening, where all those afflicted by any disorders my come to the Doctor, and he will give them his advice gratis – His stay at Witham will be till Sunday afternoon four o’clock, and returns to the Three Cups Inn at Colchester that evening, which place he leaves on Wednesday the 11th  of Dec. and proceeds to Norwich”

1777 May 16, p.3 col.3  At the Theatre in Witham. On Sat, May 17, will be presented a Dramatic Romance called Cymon, with all the music, dresses, scenery and decorations incidental to the place, as performed upwards of 50 nights at the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane. To which will be added a farce called The Wrangling Lovers or Comical Reconcilement. On Monday, Venice Preserved or a Plot Discover’d, with a farce and entertainments.
Pit, Two shillings, Gallery, One shilling.
To begin precisely at seven o’clock.
Nights of performing are Mondays Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
(I don’t think we know where the theatre was, but the George is quite a possibility).

1777 23 May p.3 col 4
On Wednesday the prince of Mecklenburgh Strelitz, and his attendants, breakfasted at the George Inn at Witham, in his way to Harwich, to embark for Germany.

By the 1780s, the George was said to be “in full trade”. It then included a “large ball-room” or “spacious assembly room”, “dining parlours of all sizes, elegant bedchambers, wine vaults and beer cellars, complete brewing office” with coach-houses and stall-stables for 50 or 60 horses, and ”good hay-chambers and granaries”.

People who have studied the buildings of those times have emphasised the size and high quality of the George, and stressed how very imposing it would have been during its time as an inn. But this glory did not continue. Although it was a prosperous time for England in general, there seem to  have been particular local problems.


1781. Bankrupts. Jeremiah BROWN, late of Witham, Essex, but since of Chelmsford, Essex, innholder. To surrender on the 6th and 13th days of Feb. inst and March 16, Attorney Mr Parker, Chelmsford.

To be sold, by the said Jeremiah Brown, an exceeding good Mess Tent, completely furnished, to seat 40 gentlemen, mahogany furniture.

1781, April 13th, p.3, col.4. Chelmsford.
All Persons who have any Debt on Mr JEREMIAH BROWN, late of the George Inn, at Witham, are obliged to send him an account thereof, at his house in New Street, Chelmsford, in order that they may be discharged; and all persons who stand indebted to the said Jeremiah Brown are desired to pay the [?sums?] late in the hands of Mr Walter Gullifer, attorney at Witham  without further notice.


1781. J CROKE respectfully acquaints Mr Brown’s customers, and the gentlemen and ladies who travel that road, he has provided able horses, neat post-chaises, good beds, a good larder, wines etc. and every other accommodation to merit their future custom.

1781, January 19th, p.3 col 2
JOHN CROKE. From Mr Tattersall’s,
Respectfully begs leave, to acquaint the Nobility, Gentry, Friends, etc., he has newly acted on the above, and laid in a fresh stock of horses, neat post chaises, etc.
Mr [Jeremiah} Brown’s customers, and such gentry [?????] with their favours, may depend on meeting [?? with every reception ????]
John Croke.
Wines, Brandy,rum, arrak etc, cyder, perry,, and fine ales, in calks or bottles, as cheap as at London.

1781, March 2, p.3 col 3.
TURF will cover mares this season, at Mr CROKE’s, George Inn, in Witham, at Two Guineas and Two Shillings the room.
TURF is sixteen hands high, free from any natural blemish, and the strongest blood horse in the kingdom; he was bred by lord Bollingbrook, was got by Matcham, who now covers at 50 guineas a mare.
TURF covered at Barking in Essex, at 10 guineas a mare, is sire of the famous King Pipin, who beat Durindent, and was sold to the duke de Longan, for seventeen hundred and fifty guineas.
THOR was the best racer in his year, won several plates, matches, and sweepstakes; his stock was remarkably large and boney.
TURF is a surefoul getter, and was sold for 150 guineas.

1781, August 17th, p.4 vol.3. GEORGE INN, WITHAM, ESSEX
J.CROOKE, respectfully begs leave to solicit the Favours of the nobility, gentry and travellers, who frequent or pass through Witham, and desires to acquaint them, that he has newly fitted up the GEORGE INN, with good beds, keeps neat post chaises, and expeditious horses.

CROOKE buys and sells horses for field, road and harness.
N.B. To be Sold by Private Contract. the Weighing Steelyard at the George, it’s in good repair, and very little work for use. Enquire ford; or Mr Alexander Robinson, Maldon; or Mr Barlow, Colchester. It will weigh five tons.

1782 July 19th p.3, c0l 2.
To let on lease, that well-known established Inn the George at Witham, Essex, the premises are exceeding good repair, and low rented, consist of a spacious Assembly Room, dining parlours of all sizes, elegant bedchambers, wine vaults and beer cellars, complete brewing office, good garden well-stocked; stall stables for upwards of 60 horses, coach houses; grainaries, with every other conveniency suitable to an Inn; now in full trade.  Any reasonable indulgence will be given to an approved tenant. Some pasture land may be had with the above. For further particulars enquire of J CROKE aforesaid.

To be sold, a pair of fresh Bay Geldings, with a good phaeton, on reasonable terms. Enquire of J Croke aforesaid.

1783 August 8th, p.3 col 3
George Inn, Witham, Essex, (lately held by Mr CROOKE), as now fixed up in a genteel manner by Leonard NUNN from Chelmondiston, Suffolk, who returns his most sincere thanks to the nobility, gentry and others, for the many favours already conferred, and hopes for a continuation of the same, his utmost endeavours shall be exerted to render every accommodation agreeable. Wines etc.
Neat post chaises, with able horses, and careful drivers, to any part of England.

1783 August 29th, p.3. {and other dates}
“TO BE SOLD by Private Contract. THE GEORGE INN.
The premises are in good repair, well situated, and consist of large and small dining parlours, a commodious assembly room, spacious lodging rooms, good wine and beer cellars, complete brewing office, carriage house, hay lofts and granaries, with stabling for 70 horses, upwards of 50 of which are stalled; a good garden well-stocked, with every convenience necessary for an Inn.
Particulars Mr John Scott and son, Witham; and Mr J O Parker, Chelmsford.


in 1768, a remark had been made about the above-mentioned William Sheldrick, who was a Postboy at that time. Somebody said that he was unable to read or write, in spite of the requirements of his job.

But nearly thirty years later, in 1795, he became the innkeeper at the George. He bought it from the men who were dealing with Jeremiah Brown’s bankruptcy. However, William Sheldrick himself became bankrupt after several years, and the George was sold again.

MATTHEW BARNARD HARVEY, merchant,(“woolstapler, hop merchant, tallow chandler and chapman” and sometimes banker, 1803-1806)

The first thing to notice here is that this new proprietor was not described as an innkeeper any more. THE  GEORGE  HAD  CLOSED.
Although Matthew Barnard Harvey was only in charge for a short time, he took part in some quite dramatic changes.


I think Matthew must have been born in about 1750, one of seven children of Daniel Harvey senior, a distinguished farmer of Kelvedon. His mother was from another well-known Kelvedon family, the Whittles of Felix Hall.

In 1781  Feb 16, p.3 col.3, we find this newspaper report:-
“Last Thursday was married Mr M B Harvey, hop-merchant, of Witham, to Miss Love, of the same place, an agreeable young lady, endowed with every qualification to make the married state happy and desirable”

The Harveys were members of the Congregationalist Church. During the following years Matthew acquired many Essex properties, both in and out of Witham, and including some near and round that church (then known as the Dissenting Meeting Ground, now the URC).

Then in 1803 he bought the George, after the bankruptcy of William Sheldrick.

In 1806, he sold the north / left hand  part of the site  (as seen from the road) (now number 59) to William Henry Pattisson, who already owned an extensive and widely distributed estate in the town centre.

Here I’ll repeat the illustrations about the division of the plot, which were shown at the beginning of the post.

Above. Before 1806-07.
Red = The whole of the George (now 59-61). Wide plot,
about 100 feet across. Plain plaster frontage.

Above.  After 1806-07.
Red = The Bank (now 61). Narrow plot, about 50 feet across, left hand part (from behind) of what was previously the George. New brick frontage.
Plain = right-hand part (seen from behind) of what was previously the George (now 59). Sold to W H Pattisson.

Then in about 1807, Matthew sold what was left of the George to James Goodeve Sparrow, head of Sparrow’s Bank. That is now our Town Hall. We don’t know whether Matthew Barnard Harvey applied the brick frontage before he sold it, or whether Sparrows did so after they bought it.

This was the beginning of over a hundred years that the building spent as THE BANK.

Above, 61 Newland Street in 1977. Formerly the right-hand part of the George Inn (as seen from the front). More or less as we know it today, having been encased in brick in the early 1800s. Photo taken in 1977, with royal pictures in the windows for the Queen’s Silver Jubilee.

The bricks and windows in the top row have nothing behind them, but serve to make the building more imposing. Another example of a false top floor is at Batfords, 100 Newland Street  (Photo by JG, ref. W109).

Above, a photo of some bricks in the wall of 61 (the Bank /Town Hall). They have been smartened up with the use of “false pointing”. The idea was that the original genuine but untidy mortar, had colour applied to it in the same shade as the bricks, so it was hardly visible. Though on the photo it looks paler than the bricks, perhaps due to the passage of time.

Then the “false mortar” in a different shade (grey, above) was put on top in a much more smart and regular and visible pattern than the original mortar had been (photo by JG, P173/6A, taken 2002). It must have been quite a skilled and expensive process. Another example is at 129 Newland Street, Fern House.

I thought I’d try and find more about “false pointing” in a well-known modern reference source. There was a video of some quite recent and very bad brickwork, and the term “false pointing” was used to describe how bad it was, not good like ours.

Much more common were descriptions of dogs who were “false pointing”, i.e not correctly pointing at, or marking, or picking up, a certain bird or animal that had been brought down by hunters. Dozens of people commented on this, though not always very helpfully. Most remarks were along the lines that the dog in question had a “Defective nose”, and some said “Get another dog”. Other people blamed the owners.

To emphasise that the George had really gone, we have this impressive description of the George’s old inn sign. It’s a fitting farewell. I don’t know when it was written, nor where I got it from. It might have been Arthur Brown.

….. that elegant and much admired representation of St George Slaying the Dragon, affixed to the premises late the George Inn, Witham. The figures in this most curious piece of carved work are allowed to be a master-piece of the art; they are as large as life, and discover the resolute and martial spirit of the hero, the undaunted fire of the horse, and the dreadful defence of the beast. This very valuable sign, the admiration of those who have seen it, is said to have cost 120 guineas at the first purchase.

Just a brief digression (I plan to make these in green). In 1810, after he had sold up the new Bank, Matthew built a row of six houses in Witham, to be almshouses for the Congregational Church (now the URC).  He and the rest of the Harvey family were devoted members of that church. The almshouses were eventually pulled down and rebuilt in Guithavon Street (shown in the photo below). Later these were also demolished and their place taken by the Methodist church.

The second version of Harvey’s almshouses, in what is now Guithavon Street. They were provided by Matthew Barnard Harvey for the Congregational Church. Their nickname was “Paradise Row” (my ref M319). They were later replaced by  the old Methodist Church, which I believe is now a hall.

Less successfully, in 1814, Matthew and John Whittle Harvey of Hadleigh (probably a brother) founded the “Rochford Hundred and Billericay Bank”.  It failed after quite a short time, but this did not deter the spread of local banks across the countryside.

Matthew died in 1820, leaving a list of possessions to his wife Martha, which started –

I give and bequeath unto my beloved wife Martha Harvey All and every my Household Furniture, Plate, Linen, China and books. And all my ready Monies out at Interest or held by any Person or Persons for my use Stocks funds and Securities for Money rights credits shares benefits Interests Personal and Chattels Estates and effects whatsoever and wheresoever. And all other estate

Another digression. I must mention Matthew’s son, Daniel Whittle Harvey, He was born in 1786 in Witham, and was a good friend of the very nonconformist Dr Henry Dixon, of Witham and Rivenhall. Daniel was a politician, but not just any politician. He was a Radical, “a tall, handsome man, of a jovial rollicking nature”, and “an orator born”. In spite of these attributes, his many activities and ambitions were always complicated by pitfalls and stresses, and he had many enemies as well as many friends.

Nevertheless, he was MP for Colchester, then MP for Southwark, then Registrar of the Metropolitan Public Carriages (i.e. taxis) and then the first Commissioner of the City of London Police. His most long-lasting achievement was founding the Sunday Times newspaper, the same one that we have today. He has a place in all the Biographical and Political dictionaries, some of which are online, e.g. there’s a long article about him by historian Clive Emsley, in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

Banks in Witham.

Here I shall briefly describe the banking companies that increasingly owned the local banks, and whose headquarters were usually based in a larger town some distance away from Witham.

The authoritative work on banking in Essex is “History of Banks and Banking in Essex” by the Essex historian Miller Christie, published in 1906.

The most important Essex banking firm in the 1820s was Sparrow, Brown, Hanbury, Savil and Simpson of Chelmsford. It was they who had bought the old George building from Matthew Barnard Harvey in about 1807, and this became Witham’s first regular bank.

I’m treating the Witham Savings Bank as irregular, not part of the main story, but I think it does deserve a digression. Some countries in Europe embarked on the Savings Bank system during the 18th century. In Britain, the first of several Savings Bank Acts was passed in 1817. The legislation regulated the banks, which were founded by a variety of people. in Witham, the Church seems to have been the main promoter. The banks were intended purely for saving, to help people who did not have much money.

Since I started writing about this, I’ve found some notes that I once made from The Times of 16 January 1818, and which I find too interesting to leave out. They show that Witham was quick to adopt the new Act, in spite of being merely Provincial.
SAVINGS BANKS – On Tuesday se’nnight, the trustees and managers of the Witham Savings Bank held their first quarterly meeting, to audit the accounts, &c., when it appeared, that, in the short space of ten weeks, the bank having opened on the 21st of October 1817, there had been deposited as follows:-
41 labourers
33 servants
21 petty tradesmen
7 friendly societies
4 apprentices
54 minors
5 miscellaneous
Total 3,112£ 15s by 175 persons
And that the amount of subscriptions for defraying the first expenses of the institution was 173£ 11s “

Other sources tell us about the resident clerk; it was Daniel Till to start with. Pigot’s 1839 directory gives the “Secretary” as the Reverend Charles Dalton (of Kelvedon), and says “Open Tuesday”.

Guithavon Street was laid out in about 1842 and attracted imposing buildings of which a new Savings Bank office was one (number 19, now someone else’s office). John Booker used to tell me how distinctive it was to build a bank in Gothic style like this one, at a time when most new banks were classical in style. The bank was still open in the 1890s but I’m not sure what happened after that.

Above. The former Witham Savings Bank in Guithavon Street, now an office (number 19). The cross high up symbolises its connection to the Church. Taken in 1982. My ref. W325.

The banking panic of 1825-26
Back to the regular banks. They all had to struggle with the Great Banking panic of 1825 and 1826. This was an international crisis. Many bank account holders were so alarmed that they queued to take their savings out of the banks, which resulted in some banks becoming insolvent.

At a Colchester branch one day there was a queue of such people who’d come in a panic to withdraw their money. Then a prosperous gentleman, Revd. William Marsh, gathered up cash from his house, put it in a bag, walked over to the bank and paid it in, thus rescuing the bank and its customers single-handed.

But three of the Essex firms collapsed within a week, and several others came close to closure.

Sparrows, with its new branch at Witham, had some very worried moments but managed to overcome them during what was thought to be the worst of the crisis. But two months later they closed down.

Witham people anxiously sought a replacement, and eventually their appeal to Mills, Bawtree, of Colchester, were successful. Mills, Bawtree t00k over the Witham Bank from Sparrows and survived till 1891. Their carved message, shown in the photo below, was also long-lived, though I am not sure whether it’s still there now.

Above. This elegant carving is (or was) planted in the side garden wall of the Bank, number 61. It backs onto number 59. Whenever I see a sign like this, I always feel there must be a story behind it. If there is in this case, I’m afraid I don’t know what it is (photo by JG, ref. P19/13, taken 1988).

Perhaps this is a good moment to mention the place three doors below the Bank. It was an inn called the Lion (or occasionally the Red Lion) and sometimes the George and the Lion were mentioned together. It was often used as a landmark, when people wanted to describe somewhere at that lower end of the town. But in about 1700 it was “converted from an inn into six or seven several tenements”. Then those tenements became Thomasin’s brush works and places for the brush workers to live, the whole being the brush yard.

The name of the Red Lion has been used twice more since then (once, temporarily) on the corner of Guithavon Street and Newland Street (number 68). The fields behind were called the Lion fields. And today there is yet another Red Lion (at number 7).

William Knight the elder, bookseller and printer, head of the bank c.1840 onwards.

Time to catch a look at some bank managers, who lived and worked in the Bank House on behalf of the companies. From about 1840, the local head of the Witham Bank was William Knight from Kelvedon. His was a remarkable family. They were all Quakers, and were involved with the active local Quaker meeting, and with looking after its premises. They used the bank building at 61 for a variety of commercial purposes, as well as running the bank and living there, usually with at least half a dozen people. In 1851, at the age of 61, William Knight himself was named in the census as a “bookseller and printer employing three hands”. His son, William Sanders Knight, aged 25, was then a “Banker’s clerk”. Two daughters “assisted at home”, another “assisted in the shop”. There was also an office for the Essex and Suffolk Fire and Life Office. And always one or two servants.

Above. The gravestone of William Knight, who died in about 1853. This is the 17th-century Quaker burial ground in Church Street. Quakers disliked ostentation, and often their burials were unmarked. Or if there was a stone, it might not have a name. So William was unusual – I don’t know whether that was a good sign or not.

William Sanders Knight, bank manager c.1853.

William Knight the father died about 1853 and his son William, formerly the clerk, took over (actually William Sanders Knight, but known just as William like his father). He was the first of the bank agents etc. that I found to be actually described as a Bank Manager.  This was in the 1871 census when he was 45.  Following the family tradition, his sister Elizabeth lived at the Bank too, her occupation being given as “Bank Manager’s sister”. There was Emma Wood, a Witham girl, who was a 21-year old domestic servant. And then, also living in, two Bankers’ Clerks, William L Slaney and Alfred Mens (the elder, aged 33). Ten years later, Alfred Mens was himself the Bank Manager, as we’ll see below.

A small digression. I remarked earlier that the George was in a busy place. Looking again at this 1871 census, it seems that little had changed. Next to the Bank, where there used to be part of the George (no.59) was Charles Foster’s iron foundry, employing twelve men and three boys. You wonder how they had space. Next was John F Snell, a “farmer and landowner farming 530 acres, employing 25 men and five boys” (57, now Valero Lounge). The next three were a Corn Merchant, a Poulterer, and the Spread Eagle (with 81 year old Sarah Nunn in charge). So yes, it was still busy.

Alfred Mens the elder, Bank Manager till c.1906, (b.c.1840, d.1910).

We saw just now how Alfred Mens the elder was progressing from being the Banker’s clerk to being the Bank Manager. He had eight children – the boys attended Mr Blackie’s Chipping Hill School (now Barnardiston House). His career started in the 1860s and he was connected with the bank for 56 years. First he was  manager for Mills, Bawtree, and variations thereof, then for Sparrow, and then Barclay’s. It seems that he always lived in the Bank House, our Town Hall bulding; for instance in the 1901 census he was there with his wife, Charlotte, and one of his grown-up sons.

Alfred Charles (Joey) Mens, banker et al.







Above. Alfred Charles Mens, who was
known to everybody as “Joey Mens”.
(My ref M523).

Joey was not a  banker for long, though he may have sometimes combined it with his other jobs. In the days when there was no formal qualification for banking, having experience in your own business was invaluable for a banker. Joey was born in 1876, and to quote from the newspaper, he was  “born and raised in Witham, and entered banking after his school days, but later left to farm at Hatfield Peverel.” (Braintree and Witham Times, 9 Oct 1958).

He left that, and in about 1914 he founded the “Witham Cartage and Coal Company” (full title “contractors, sand and stone merchants, steam and general hauliers, contractors for carting timber”).

Above. Arthur (Joey) Mens was a banker after his father, and then started the Witham Cartage and Coal Company. These horses and a cart from the company have Albert Shelley, one of the drivers, standing, and George Burmby on the cart(information from Bernard Barber). The Company is  mentioned in directories from 1914 to 1929 (My ref. M465)

In about 1920, Joey Mens’ and his family moved into a large house called “Langleys” near the Public Hall in Collingwood Road. It was demolished in the 1990s, which much distressed Miss Margaret Mens, daughter of J0ey and his wife Millie. She had many affectionate recollections of the family: see Tape 185. Miss Margaret Mens, sides 1 and 2.

Arthur Charles (Joey) Mens and his family, at “Langleys”, 10 Collingwood Road, in about 1920. Margaret Mens is the girl on the right with the tricycle (My ref. M521}. She was born in 1913. Another photo shows her as a tulip, in a Pastoral play in the Park in 1920 (M531).


Sparrow Tufnell, 1891-1899
Sparrows returned to the Witham Bank again in 1891, this time as Sparrow Tufnell.

Barclay’s Bank, Witham Branch, 1899-1939
Then in 1899, Barclay’s Bank took over the premises and the business at 61 from from Sparrow Tufnell. Barclay’s had been long established in England, having been founded in 1690 in London. In 1896 they absorbed several other banks as a group, including some in Essex. Then later they purchased others. In 1899, Witham became one of these others, and the site (now the Town Hall) became Barclay’s Bank. At the same time the manorial rights and duties were “enfranchised” everywhere, meaning they were abolished. The description with the enfranchisement was:

The Bank House is well situated in the High Street. It is brick fronted and partly plastered and tiled. It comprises the Bank Offices and consulting Room, Iron Safe built in wall, underground cellars, Drawing and Dining rooms. eight bed rooms. Store rooms, Pantry, Kitchen, Scullery, coal cellar, WC and good garden. (E.R.O. D/DDw T180/10)

About this time, some documents started referring to “The Bank and the House adjoining” and the two belonging to the same person, for instance Thomas Butler, a grocer. The “house adjoining” seems to have been what is now 63 Newland Street, Mondy’s, but not to have had any connection with 61, apart from the two buildings adjoining each other and being in the same ownership.

Henry Beck Peecock, Bank Manager c.1908-c.1922 (d.1945), and his wife, Mrs Agnes Peecock.

One source of information suggests that Henry started as Bank manager in 1899, and another that he started in 1908. I decided not to get too involved in such questions just now, so that I can spend the time in a long overdue finish to the Town Hall post as a whole.

He did have a few years “away” as manager at Epping. When in Witham, he and his family lived in the Bank House (now the Town Hall) until the 1920s, when they moved to the house “Blakenham” in Collingwood Road (he was a native of Blakenham near Ipswich).

The Peecocks were active in the town in many ways. In his younger days, Henry had been captain of the Football Club. He was also a Treasurer of Witham Cricket Club, and of the Parochial Church Council. He was in the All Saints Church Choir for fifty years, and was a churchwarden for thirty.

Witham Football team, 1884-85. The photo is said to include Henry Beck Peecock, marked with a cross. The cross (on his arm) is very faint, but he might be second from the left. The photo was kindly sent to Chelmsford Library by his dughter Ruth, together with many others..

We do know that the man on the right, with the ball, is Billy Shee junior. At this time he was the Deputy Registrar of Births, Marriages and Deaths for Witham. His father of the same name held several responsible official posts (together) for about the previous forty years. (Chelmsford Library ZPi 796.334)

A newspaper report said that Henry the bank manager  was “a very useful and popular member of society at Witham, and filled several honorary offices. He succeded the late Mr S T Davies as secretary to the old Literary Institution … he also took an active part in the promotion of the Recreation Ground scheme. He has been a staunch supporter of the Constitutional Club, and has for some years acted as its Treasurer”.

Henry’s wife, Mrs Agnes Peecock, was a daughter of Thomas Blakie (Blackie), who was head of the private boys’ school at Barnardiston House in Chipping Hill, where she was born. After that she was a pupil at Cheltenham Ladies’ College. At the beginning of the First World War she was secretary of the YMCA Recreation hut in Collingwood Road, where refreshment and facilities were provided for billeted soldiers.

Another commitent, perhaps the greatest, was being Secretary of the Witham Nursing Association after the War.  They ran the maternity Nursing Home, known as the “Bungalow”, in Collingwood Road, which was opened in 1920. The controversy about its provision is described elsewhere in this website. She was said to be an “untiring worker”, having been on the committee for eleven years, some of them as both secretary and treasurer together.

An umbrella race in the Grove meadow in 1921 or 1922. Front row, left to right, Mrs Agnes Peecock (bank manager’s wife), Mrs Galpin (vicar’s wife), Mrs Chaplin (probably Caroline, who had three sons killed in the War), Miss Edith Luard  (pronounced  Loo-ud)  (the eldest of Admiral Luard’s eight daughters) (ERO T/P 133/28).

We are very fortunate to have some memories about the Peecocks from the late Mrs Dorothy (Dolly) Ireland (nee Goss). She gave birth to her first baby in the Bungalow and had this to say..

Peecock, yes. Oh they were nice people –, they really were. They helped. ‘Cos with the nursing home, when that was first built, they were very good to collect the names and get the people in, that couldn’t afford to go in. I went in there each time, but I paid the seven guineas a week, I remember. You went in for fourteen days. But when there were people that couldn’t go, oh she was good, she paid.

They could only have two, and I was with Mrs H– and it was her twelfth baby, and mine was the first, and she said to me ‘Mrs. Peecock is paying for me’.. Oh, they were good to her, she had every comfort, everything beautiful —

Oh Mrs. H–? Well, because she was poor, wasn’t it, you see, and her husband worked for Wakelin (of Freebornes farm), old Bertie Wakelin, see, so that’s where Mrs. Peecock was kind.

One man would read in Church, and we used to say “you drunken old man”. The Peecocks were different, were ‘nice’, and ‘old-fashioned’.

Mrs Ireland was later safety-pinned to her mattress by the nurse because she got of bed without permission.

Mrs Peecock was also secretary of the War Savings Committee. During the War it seemed to be mostly the ladies who were expected to raise money. I’ve noticed when reading minutes of various organisations, that if a committee (usually male) was approached for money, their response was nearly always “ask Miss — to organise a collection”.

To Mrs Peecock we also owe a very extensive and interesting collection of papers about Witham during her time here. Thanks to the devotion of her daughter, Ruth, these have been preserved and kept at the Essex Record Office (at first some were at the Chelmsford Library but I think they are now combined at the. There are notes and articles composed by Mrs Peecock herself, with collections of photos (ERO T/P 133/1-26), and a large book of newspaper cuttings (ERO A10510).

Above: Ruth Peecock in a “Patriotic Play” in 1915. It was held in the grounds of the Grove and was entitled “The Birth of the Union Jack”. Patriotic performances of course had a  particular impact and importance during the First World War. I’ll show the rest of the photo and some information to illustrate this..

The group is portrayed in “Welsh” dress. I don’t know many of the other girls. They did include Miss Springett (extreme left), and Phyllis Atkins (in the centre, sitting on a throne, in a black hat, portraying “Dame Jones”. She lived in Avenue Road. Her mother was a widow; they were related to Councillor Esmond Smith. Ruth Peecock (the left hand one of the two sitting in front) (my ref. M178). The names were mostly from Lucy Croxall.

There are a large number of photos of this Patriotic Pageant, taken by W.E.(Billy) Bull, from 34 Newland Street: M173, M174, M175, M176, M177, M178, M179, M180, M181, M182, M183, M184, M1020, M1796, M1797. One large group of people formed the layout of the Union Jack, another surrounded Britannia on her throne, another did a “Scots dance”, and a young girl from dancing school (Nyria Hawkins) did a solo “Sword dance”. There’s a report in the Essex Weekly News, for 20 August, 1915.


It was soon after the arrival of the Peecocks that the Bank acquired the clock. In 1910 there was a dramatic fire at the old Constitutional Club. The town clock, which hung there, waa badly damaged.

Above. The fire in 1910 at the old Constitutional Club, which was destroyed. It stood in front of the Congregational Church (now the United Reformed Church). Beard’s shop is now Holt’s. It was and is readily recognisable even from a distance, because of the quoins on the corners, i.e the alternating long and short stones. In the photo above, the clock is still attached to the Club, high up.

I don’t think we know for certain  whether it fell down, or whether it was helped. An old friend of mine (born 1894) told me that it was all the smoking at the Club which caused the fire (my ref. M687).

Above -Barclay’s Bank at 61 after the arrival of the clock in about 1910 [my ref. M95]. The photo belonged to Miss Ruth Beck Peecock, who said  this was what it was like when she lived here with her parents). She said “rats teemed all through that roof, we used to hear them every night”

Ruth also said “The clock was given to the town by late Mr Laurence of the Grove (also pulled down). The works made a great noise & sounded like a heavyweight policeman walking up & down. One got used to it, I slept with it for 8 years ! The clock was lighted by electricity (then a novelty). This was about 1912. My Mother had to put off the switch at about two a.m. every morning. She says she did it in her sleep quite mechanically”.

The indoor clock mechanism in the Town Hall in
2018. It is still there.

To conclude the discussion of the Town Hall clock, this is one of my favourite photos, an atmospheric view of Newland Street, taken in 1965 from next to the clock. The photographer was probably the gifted Derek Mansell of the Braintree and Witham Times (my ref. M395).


Alfred Samuel Allshorn, Bank Manager c.1922-1930
Arthur Edwin Barker, Bank Manager, c.1930 onwards

I‘m afraid that at the moment I don’t know anything about these two gentlemen.

In 1939, BARCLAYS BANK LEAVES number 61 (now the Town Hall) and goes to number 59 next door.

As we saw earlier, the sites of 61 and 59 were in the past all one property, namely the George Inn. Then 61 became the Bank in 1806-7, over 100 years ago, and 59 went its own way.

59 began this independence as offices for the Pattisson family. At that time it was connected to number 57 next door, the Pattissons’ house (now Valero Lounge), by a gallery. The other occupants of 59 included Miss Hunt’s children’s home after the First World War. It became known as Horwood House (ERO D/DBw various, part of property number 7).

But then in 1939 it was decided to demolish 59 and put up a new building there. And Barclay’s Bank moved into it. So they completely left our site and the Bank House at 61 (now Town Hall), and its decades of serving Witham’s finances.

I don’t know whether Barclay’s move from 61 was pre-meditated. The way that someone described it to me, was that people from Barclay’s got to see and to hear about the new 59 when it was finished, and thought how smart and wonderful it was. And so they decided to move there. And that they also realised how decrepit their old bank at 61 (now the Town Hall) had become (sorry, I can’t remember who the someone was who told me this).

Leslie Rees of Westcliff told me that he was working “at Barclays when it moved from 61 Newland Street to the new building at 59. Soon afterwards the War started, and 61 was requisitioned for the army. The 4th Essex HQ. Then a Scots regiment came.”

Above. A photo taken in about 1900. Below, the same view in 2024.

Key to both photos
On the right is number 61, the Bank until 1939.
In the middle is number 59,“Horwood House”, rebuilt in 1939 for the Bank. ………..(59 and 61 together had been the George Inn until 1806)
The large building on the left is number 57,“Witham House”, built by the         Pattisson family as their mansion in about 1750 (now Valero).

Digression, looking ahead.
Barclay’s did well in their bright new premises at 59. But then in the 2020s, branch banks started to go out of fashion, and it was decided that Witham didn’t need one any more. Barclay’s moved out and put the once new and inviting building at 59 up to let.
The irony is that they decided they should still have a sort of mini-bank. And where was that to be ? It was in the Town Hall, 61, the building that Barclay’s had left in 1939 as being inferior. In 2024 there is a banner at the Town Hall to remind people where to go.

This shows the Town Hall, 61 Newland Street, in 2024, when Barclay’s had returned to part of it, having left originally in 1939.

Number 61 (Town Hall) was occupied by several companies after the military had left in 1945, including the following. Rippons (tobacco store, before 1969). The Magnet and Planet Building Society (in the 1970s), the Town and Country Building Society and the Solid Fuel Advisory Service (1980s).

Then it was purchased by the Witham Town Council in 1993, when a lengthy and extensive refurbishment began. The bank vault and the strongroom were taken out, and plaster was removed to reveal huge oak beams.  One of them was painted, probably in medieval times. So we have now come full circle from the very beginning of this essay, when we first saw the building and those beams. They can be seen in the following three photos, which were kindly provided by the Witham Town Council.

Witham Town hall, refurb 1993.
61 Newland Street. Refurb, 1993.
61 Newland Street. Refurb, 1993.

When all the work was complete, the Town Council moved into the premises, and the Town Hall has been buzzing with activity for the past thirty years.

The Proclamation at Witham Town Hall of tthe accesion of the new King, Charles III, in 2023. Photo from Witham Town Council with thanks.


Alterations to the parish church of Witham since the 18th century


Alterations to the parish church of Witham (St Nicholas / St Nicolas) from the 18th century onwards
By Janet Gyford, from local sources.


List of main sources of information

Bramston = ERO Acc A5404, three scrapbooks presented by Reverend Bramston to the parish, 1873.

Mary Bramston = “Witham Fifty Years Ago” by Mary Bramston (daughter of former vicar John Bramston, she was born c 1842), in the Parish Magazine, 1897.

Lucas = “Witham, Essex”, by Lieut-Col W J Lucas, in volume 4 of Transactions of Essex Archaeological Society, published 1895.

Fowler =The Church of St Nicholas, Witham, by R C Fowler, published 1911

RCHM = Report of Royal Commission on Historic Monuments, based on survey of 1914.

ERO = Essex Record Office, various documents as quoted.

Guildhall = Guildhall Library Manuscripts section, various documents as quoted.

I also suggest looking at the Rate book and the Vestry minutes 1833-1911, in ERO Accession A5605, Box 1.



In the course of these works [of 1877] it became clear that originally the whole of the interior, including the stone pillars, was coloured vermilion powdered with black stars of five points. This had long been obliterated by repeated coats of Puritan whitewash, and is now effectually destroyed by the new facing of the walls and the carding of the stone work” (Lucas).

RCHM includes a plan of the church in 1914.



Email from Herts RO

From: Herts Direct <>
Date: Thu, 7 Oct 2004 19:04:08 +0100
Dear Janet Gyford,

Re: Records for the diocese of St Albans

As you may be aware the diocese of St Albans was established by virtue of an Order in Council of 30 April 1877, whereby the whole of the counties of Essex and Hertfordshire were removed from the diocese of Rochester and formed into the new diocese. The diocese of Chelmsford was formed by an Order in Council of 21 January 1914 and documents relating to temporalities in Essex have been transferred to the Essex Record Office.

Email from Kent RO

Subject: Diocesan Records
Date: Mon, 11 Oct 2004 09:25:12 +0100
To: Janet Gyford

I have not been able to find we hold any faculties for Witham, I’m afraid.

The Muniment Books for the right period (at present uncatalogued) may show

entries, but I have not found any other relevant documents.


Michael Carter

Centre for Kentish Studies



The Tower

  1. “The height of the [original] rubble masonry was about the same as that of the Tower as now existing, but this was continued 24 feet higher by a structure of wood in which the Bells were hung. This structure having become delapidated was removed in 1743 and replaced in red bricks’ … [in 1877 it was found that] ‘one of the principal beams of the old frame bore the inscription, carved in relief, “John Hast framed me, 1743”. On other timbers were carved the names of “W Sands” and of “S Harris Churchwarden” and the initials “J W”, the two last with the same date added“ (1743) (Lucas).

? date. Some drawings of the elevations of the church in the Bramston scrapbooks show it with no stair turrets, i.e. not at the vestry and not at the tower. The drawings are stuck in near 1840s material, but could have been put there later (Bramston).

c 1844. “The west window and the beautiful tower arch were [still] bricked up and plastered over, and in front were two great galleries, the organ in the highest one. … The Sunday-school children sat in the lower gallery … “ (Mary Bramston).

  1. ‘Two western galleries were taken down – arch into belfry opened’ (Bramston) [this probably means into the tower]
  2. ‘When I was eight or nine years old, the church was “restored”; the belfry arch was opened and the present west window put in’” (Mary Bramston).
  3. “The Arch opening [from the tower] into the nave is very lofty. Previous to 1849 this was closed and two tiers of galleries existed in the nave. In that year these were taken down and the Arch opened out. Above this Arch is a window commanding a view of the Altar and whole interior of the Church …’ (Lucas).
  4. “Red top of tower removed, and tower restored – new framing of bells – 2 bells recast … New floors to Tower [et al.]. Church closed May 14 – reopened Dec 18 by Bp of St Albans. Total cost £2,100” (Bramston).
  5. “[The red brick top of the tower dating from 1743] was taken down in 1877 and the Bells hung in the chamber below, which is not suitable for want of sufficient height. Thus the sound bow of some is below the cills of the windows, which deadens the sound, and an opinion has been expressed that in the course of years it may have a prejudicial effect upon the stability of the walls; and whereas previously the Bells at their former height were heard at a distance of two or three miles, they can now [1895] only be heard in the town in very still weather or when a north-east wind prevails’ .

‘The Bell Frames taken down [in 1877] were a fine specimen of the art of carpentering, and except in a few places in very substantial preservation. The Architect (the late Joseph Clarke) was desirous of retaining them, but they were found to be too large for the present Chamber into which the Bells were to be lowered on account of the diminished space owing to the increased thickness of the walls, and new frames were then substituted.’ (Lucas).

Plans and elevations of new tower (ERO D/C/F16/10).

  1. “Clock placed in Tower of Parish Church in 1887. The gift by legacy of Miss Bramston”(Bramston).
  2. “Outside the tower, on the north, is a modern newel staircase containing some of the steps taken from the stairs of the vestry and rood loft, which leads to the middle storey of the tower, from which the bells are rung’ (Fowler).
  3. “There was ‘a modern stair turret at the N E angle and a modern embattled parapet” and also “in the N wall [of the tower] is a large recess with jambs and two-centred arch of brick and probably connected with a former gallery’ [The George Armond door was not in this recess then, it was still the outer door to the south chapel] (RCHM)



  1. Drawing of church showing galleries (my copy from Maurice Smith, my M1474, JG).
  2. “Faculty obtained for building the South Gallery of the Church” (Bramston). “ERO T/A 366/1 is a calendar of faculties in Diocesan records – gives Guildhall MS 9532/9, gallery at Witham, in 1802”.
  3. Guildhall MS volume 9532/9, f.18769

According to the card index, the actual plans accompanying these papers do not survive.

“Faculty for erecting a gallery in Witham Church

… Bishop of London … to … Vicar, parishioners and inhabitants … Witham … Greeting. Whereas it hath been … set forth before … Vicar General … of our Consistorial and Episcopal Court of London on the part and behalf of Thomas Read and James Beadle churchwardens of … Witham that at a Vestry held … for the said parish on Wednesday the thirtieth day of June [1802] … in pursuance of proper notice given in the said parish church …for the special purpose of taking into consideration the erecting a Gallery in the said Church of Witham the Minister and churchwardens … then informing the Vestry that for a considerable time past frequent complaints had been made by the parishioners of want of Seats in the Church by which many persons had been prevented attending divine worship it was resolved unanimously that it was become absolutely necessary to give immediately orders for the erecting of a gallery. That such gallery should be erected on the south side of the said church and that the plan then produced by James Beadel carpenter for the erecting of the said gallery of the dimensions of forty-two feet in length and eleven feet and a half in width to contain fifteen pews should be approved of and that it should be by him carried into immediate execution under the direction of the minister and churchwardens … church rate should be made to defray the expenses … copy of the said minutes … shewn to the said Surrogate and brought into and left in the Registry of our Court … we … ratify … Grant …to them our Leave, licence or Faculty …” 4 December 1802.

  1. Faculty obtained for building the North Gallery of the Church and Gallery erected at a cost of £198 10s’ (Bramston) (also in ERO D/P 30/6/3 and 4).
  2. Guildhall MS volume 9532/10, f.221

According to the card index the actual plans accompanying these papers do not survive

“Witham, faculty for erecting a gallery”.

Similar wording to 1802. Churchwardens now James Beadel and James Playle. Meeting held on Thursday 23 June 1814 ‘to consider “the erecting a Gallery … unanimously … that some additional accommodation is wanted … for the parishioners who resort to the Church or who would resort to the Church if they could be accommodated and that an estimate be made … cost … on north side … to correspond with that on the south side … and meeting Tuesday“ 26th July 1814 “resolved that Mr Harwood’s estimate be accepted and that he and James Beadel the younger be employed to erect the Gallery of the dimensions of 49 feet in length and 11 feet nine inches in width with three rows of pews … a copy of the minutes … and a plan … shown to the said surrogate … and left in the Registry of our said court … grant …” 15 November 1814.

  1. “Two western galleries taken down – arch into belfry opened … Reopened Jan 26 1850” (Bramston)
  2. “[Left in place] were the galleries on each side of the nave and on the south side of the chancel” (Mary Bramston)
  3. “Gallery of chancel aisle St Nicolas church taken down” (Bramston).
  4. Faculty. “Removal of gallery and minor restoration work. 3 plans, showing new ground plan of church, elevations and sections of tower and nave. Joseph Clark, architect” (ERO D/C/F16/10).
  5. “North and south galleries taken down … [et al.] Church closed May 14 – reopened Dec 18 by Bp of St Albans. Total cost £2,100” (Bramston).



  1. “Church of St Nicolas closed with exception of chancel in order to have the roof repaired. Lead taken off and sold – new slated – new cross – ceiling removed – timbers of roof repaired and exposed (Bramston) … Reopened Jan 26 1850”.
  2. “New roof of oak and slate with stone coping and cross put on chancel with oak pannelling inside” (Bramston).
  3. “The old roof removed in 1851, was somewhat similar to the present one, but the oak panels were adorned with armorial bearings which no longer appear” (Lucas)


Outside walls

  1. “Wall at east end [of chancel] also refaced with rough stones” (Bramston).

1853-54. “South side of chancel aisle refaced with entire new stonework to buttresses, windows and battlements …  South wall of south aisle of nave refaced with new stonework to buttresses, windows and to porch” (Bramston).

1853-54. [The fact that the porch is not bonded to the south wall], “prior to the reparation of the Porch, and the coating of rubble work of the south wall of the Church with rough stones about forty years [before 1895], was clearly perceptible’’ (Lucas)

  1. “… buttresses and plinth of [eastern end of north] aisle restored” (Bramston).


South Porch

“The Porch was evidently added subsequently to the re-building of the Church as the walls are not bonded into the south wall of the fabric” (Lucas).

1853-54 [The fact that the porch is not bonded to the south wall], “prior to the reparation of the Porch, and the coating of rubble work of the south wall of the Church with rough stones about forty years [before 1895], was clearly perceptible’’ (Lucas)



? date. Some drawings of the elevations of the church in the Bramston scrapbook show it with no stair turrets, i.e. not at the vestry and not at the tower. They are stuck in near 1840s material but could have been put in later (Bramston)

  1. “Vestry restored and embattlements added in new Sacrarium &c &c. [et al.] Church closed May 14 – reopened Dec 18 by Bp of St Albans Total cost £2,100” (Bramston)
  2. “Filling in of old opening in north pier of chancel arch made by Rev Newman [d.1840] (Lucas)

? date. Fowler says that in the vestry the old arched roof and “the newel stair” was removed, “and a doorway cut through the turret [i.e. of the stair]”. Lucas also mentions this but just says it was “some years since” 1895, so Fowler may have just assumed it was in 1877, and this may not be correct (Fowler and Lucas)

  1. Muniment Book containing faculty for new organ and enlarging of vestry (Herts RO, DSA/15/10).
  2. “Outside the tower, on the north, is a modern newel staircase containing some of the steps taken from the stairs of the vestry and rood loft, which leads to the middle storey of the tower, from which the bells are rung” (Fowler).



  1. 1844. “New east window of stone. Reredos put up in chancel of St Nicolas church” (Bramston)

1853-54. “Windows [on south side of chancel] glazed with Powells glass … Windows [on south wall of south aisle of nave] glazed with Powells glass. New painted window in memory of W and S Sims”. (Bramston)

  1. “Windows in eastern end of north aisle restored and fitted with Powells glass”. (Bramston).
  2. “Windows in west end of north aisle restored” (Bramston)
  3. “Memorial window at east end of chancel by Hardman of Birmingham in memory of Mr and Mrs Walford and Mrs Kennedy put up by Col Kennedy” (Bramston).
  4. “2 windows in clerestory St Nicolas south side restored in new stone and filled with Powells Glass” (Bramston).



I haven’t noted this otherwise but there is:

Muniment Book containing faculty for restoration of ancient screen, 1890 (Herts RO, DSA1/15/5)



I haven’t noted this otherwise but there is:

Muniment Book containing faculty for cross and candlesticks, 1910 (Herts RO, DSA1/15/11)


Drains and water, 1848 to 1869.

This essay is based on correspondence between Witham and two Government Departments. The Departments compiled and kept this file of letters, which is now in The National Archives.

Its description is Ref. MH 13/209: General Board of Health and Home Office:
Local Government Act Office: Correspondence.

Any exact quotations below are distinguished by inverted commas ‘  ‘
Otherwise what are written are notes and summaries by me [Janet Gyford].

The photographs at the end show what was achieved once the discussion was concluded.


Before I turn to the correspondence itself, here is a summary of the background (by JG):

1848   Under the Public Health Act, a General Board of Health was set up, responsible to the Government. It had powers to set up Local Boards of Health.
October 1848   Petition from the “inhabitants” of Witham, asking for the implementation of the Public Health Act in Witham.
1849/1850   Government Inspector Edward Cresy visited Witham, and produced a damning report on conditions in the town .
March 1852   First meeting of Witham Local Board of Health.
Later 1852   Witham LBH decided to make a sewer.
1853-1854   Mr Bull made a plan. Approved by General BH.
1855     Dissent arose in Witham about whether or not to have a plan, so nothing was done for several years.
1867-1868   A small pox epidemic struck Witham (introduced by “an Irish hawker”).
1867-1868   A very serious typhoid epidemic occurred in Terling, three miles from Witham. Two Witham people led the medical effort (Dr Gimson Gimson and Miss Mary Ann Luard) . For details, see the website The Terling Fever of 1867 – Historic Terling (

January 1868   Government inspectors who visited Terling came to Witham also, and reported unfavourably.
February 1868   A parish meeting was held in Witham, to explain the Local BH plans. A deputation led by Mr Luard objected [this must have been William Garnham Luard of Witham who later became Admiral Luard].

May 1868   Meeting held in Witham to explain  two different plans, by Mr Church and by Mr Chancellor.
September 1868   Report by Mr Rawlinson of the Local Government Board. He recommends Mr Church’s plans with modifications.
September 1868   Loan sanction received.
1869   The scheme was completed.

End of summary.

Beginning of copies of correspondence

11 Oct 1848. Letter from J Howell Blood [solicitor](1263/48)
Saying ‘honor to transmit to you a Petition from the Inhabitants of Witham that the provisions of the Act 11 & 12 V C 63, may be brought into operation. The petitioners would be greatly obliged of your early attention to it.’

Copy of petition
. Text is as follows:
‘The Honourable The General Board of Health.
The Humble Petition of the Undersigned Inhabitants of Witham in the County of Essex
That the Parish of Witham contains according to the last Census upwards of 3000 persons.
That there are nearly 700 rated[?] Inhabitants.
That your Petitioners consist of more than one tenth of such Inhabitants.
That the Town of Witham is increasing.

no General or Public Drainage exists. The only Drains being Private and very inefficient the consequence of which is that the nuisance has reached such an Extent as to render many of the Houses in the Neighbourhood of open Drains unfit for Habitation and the evil is severely felt by the Inhabitants of many of the better class of Houses from there being no proper and sufficient Outlet for their own Drains. And your Petitioners firmly believe that in the event of the Cholera appearing in the Neighbourhood the Health of the Inhabitants would materially suffer.

The subject of General Drainage
of Witham has long been under the consideration of the Inhabitants but from the want of such powers as are given by the “Public Health Act” they have been unable to carry out their object.

Your Petitioners
therefore view with great satisfaction the recent Act and humbly pay your Honourable Board to direct such Steps to be taken for Introduction of the Benefits of it into the Parish of Witham.
[The following are signatures}

John Bramston Vicar
T Tomkin, Surgeon
Thos Butler
Thos M Tomkin, Surgeon
Henry Dixon, Surgeon
Chas Douglas, Solicitor
J Howell Blood, Solicitor
Charles Cooke, Supt of Police
H Du Cane, Minister
A G Proctor, Surgeon
Edw W Banks, Solicitor
J E Walford
Seymour E Major, Curate
W W Luard, Magistrate
Jacob H Pattisson, Solicitor
Louisa Du Cane
P M[?] Green
Sarah Watkinson[?]
Thomas Pyman
Henrietta Hunt
Charlotte B Boyfield
Carrington Wilson
Wm Butler
Cornelius Walford Jnr
Robert King
MH[?] Cudford[?]
Levi Turner
M Jackson
John Cottee
Mary Philbrick
James Boutwood
[??]d Gee
Wm Bright
Wm[?] Crede[?]
Charles Owen Green
Robt Poynter Green
William Cottis
William Agar
Henry Thorpe
Robt Martin
W H Garrett
Wm Elmy
Thomas Fuller
W Burroughs
Thos Harrisson
H L White
Robert Cooke
Michael A Dandy[?]
George Edwards
M A Bramston
Ellen Newman
W Pryke
Sarah Hubbard
Isaac Warwicker
Maria Cunnington
Eliza Du Cane
Mary Beadel
Jane Bright
Mary Anne Houghton
Wm Mann
Sarah Lewis
Edwin Sibthorpe
Sarah Nunn
Robert Harrington
Geo Appleby[?]
Rebecca Cook
Geo Gardner
Jno Gardner
Thomas Mead
George White
Jno Garrard
Wm Tylor
James Slythe
Hugh Mortimer

3 Nov 1848. Letter from J Howell Blood, Witham. To E Chadwick Esq. (937/48) [Edwin Chadwick, pioneering Health reformer]
‘Sir, Some time since I forwarded to the Board of Health, a Petition from this Town on the subject of Drainage, which is much required[?], I am told that parts of the Town are in a most unwholesome state, and deaths are arising[?]. May I request to be informed if it is likely any steps will be taken in consequence of the Petition I have referred to, as if not, we must endeavour to effect an improvement by[?] some other means’.
Endorsed [by the person receiving the letter]: Acknowledge and say measures are in hand. (1264/48)

Copy of reply 4 November 1848 for Sec Gen Board of Health. Says as above.

20 Nov 1848. Letter from J Howell Blood, to Henry Austin esquire, sec of the Board of Health [1264/48] ‘Sir, I can procure an excellent Plan of the Town with a Plan of the Gas Pipes laid down for the Supply of every house. This I should suppose would answer your purpose – with regard to the Drains now existing I find that such drains as there are, very few persons know where they lead to. It really would be advantageous if a day could be fixed for the meeting as we are constantly receiving Notices of the Existence of Nuisances, which nothing can cure but general and effectual drainage’
Endorsed [by the person receiving the letter]: ‘Send next letter. Sent 27 Nov’

14[?] November. J Howell Blood to Henry Austin (1265/48)
‘Sir, I beg to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of Saturday’s date announcing that a Superintending Inspector had been appointed to visit Witham.
Public Notices are usually affixed to the Doors of the Church, Chapel, Meeting Houses and Post Office, hence a Ten[?] Notices would be required, and if you will forward them to me I will take care they are properly affixed.
There is a Public Room at the Literary Institution which I think would suit your Inspector, and which could be used by him at almost any time.
The List of Places for Public Notice is as follows. Witham Church. Ditto Chapel. Independ’t Meeting House, Baptist Do, Post Office.’

7 December 1848. Printed notice with parts filled in
Witham, Edward Cresy to be here on 2 January at 11 in forenoon in Literary Institution.

Extra note by JG:

1849/1850 Government Inspector Edward Cresy visited Witham, and produced a damning report on conditions in the town . For a copy, see the PDF link on website:

4 March 1851. Account for services Witham
Refers to enclosed papers, are they proper. Henry Austin To E Cresy Esq South Docuth[?] near Dartford Kent.

6 March 1852. From J Howell Blood, Local Board of Health, Witham, to General Board of Health, Whitehall (800/52)
Election of Local Board of Health concluded, first meeting yesterday, Rev J Bramston chair and I clerk. Adjourned till 29th inst ‘and as the members of the Board are desirous of obtaining some insight into their powers and duties, in the meantime I am directed to request you to be good enough to forward a copy for each member’ of minutes of instructions.
Endorsed [by the person receiving the letter]: Get from publisher.
Copy letter saying the same.

Letter from J Howell Blood to General Board of Health (982/52)
‘At the time Mr Cresy made his preliminary inspection of this Town, he was furnished with some Surveys etc. by Mr Walford, a Surveyor here, and as the Board think these would be useful to them, I am directed to request that you will have the goodness to give directions for their being forwarded to me’.
Endorsed [by the person receiving the letter]: see if Cresy has them.
Copy letter saying this done.

7 April 1852. Letter from Edward Cresy to GBH
‘My dear sir, Mr Walford’s plans of Witham were long ago forwarded to him by his express desire.’  Doesn’t have any left. Bit about accounts for survey etc.

27 December 1852. From J Howell Blood to GBH (5299/5)
‘I beg to inform you that the Local Board have determined to make a Sewer through part of their district, according to a plan prepared by their surveyor, and I shall be obliged by your informing me what is necessary to be done to carry out the intention of the Local Board’.
Endorsed [by the person receiving the letter] Ask whether they propose to pay out of yearly income or mortgage rates.
Copy reply asking same.

8 February 1853. From J Howell Blood to GBH (394/53)
The Witham Local Board of Health ‘have made Bye Laws for regulating their Business and the duties of their officers, for regulation of slaughter houses and for street cleansing etc. and the notice of application for their approval by one of the Secretaries of State has been duly advertised’. Please confirm Order etc.
Copy reply forwarded to Sec of State.

8 February 1852. From J Howell Blood to GBH (395/53)
Propose to raise amount for drainage of part of district ‘by mortgage of their special rates upon that part of the district for the term of ten years’.
Endorsed [by the person receiving the letter]. Must forward plans and estimates before can be approved.
Reply saying same.

Letter from H Waddington of Whitehall to GBH (524/53)
‘Directed by Viscount Palmerston’ to transmit bye laws and he asks your opinion.
Long endorsement, hard to read.

From J Howell Blood to GBH (5555/53)
‘The Local Board have accepted the Tender of Mr John Bull, surveyor, of Navestock, for the preparation of the necessary Plans for the purposes of Drainage and water supply for this district’. Forwarding specific and agreement and plan. Shown in red the part proposed to have surveyed by Mr B. Accompanying plan is a reduced copy of the map made some years since for the Tithe Commutation.
Endorsed [by the person receiving the letter]. Return plan and agreement, latter seems to be satisfactory.
Copy letter saying the same.

12 July 1854. From J Howell Blood to GBH (2824/54).
‘Have forwarded to you by this night’s mail the Plan which I have received from Mr Bull the Surveyor. He informs me that he has delivered to you the Diagram and Field Books.

14 August 1854 (435/54 ). ‘Report on the Survey Plans of Witham, Essex. To the Right Honble the President of the General Board of Health’.
‘Sir, I have the honor to report to you that the survey plans of Witham, Essex, … have been examined. This survey has been executed on a trigonometrical basis. The lines have been measured as well as calculated and they are found to be quite correct.
No error of any consequence has been detected in the levels, but it was necessary to make the addition to the plans of the level of the lowest floors of the houses.
The finished plans are plainly but very neatly drawn. The whole of the work has been executed in a very business like and commendable manner and I recommend with pleasure that the General Board’s approval of it should be signified’.
Henry Austin. Whitehall.
Endorsed [by the person receiving the letter] Send copy to LBH and say GBH have approved plans.
Bit about accounts re mortgage.

1 November 1855. From J H Pattisson, Witham House, Essex, to Secretary, GBH. With seal(4003/55)
‘Sir … The Board of Health was established … after Edw Cresy Esq had been down and met the parishioners and examined the place in consequence of a memorial to the Board of Health in London, wishing for enquiry and the establishment of sanitary measures in the parish.
There are two parties now in the Board (of 9), and in the Parish, as to carrying out Drainage and water supply, and as to the advantage or propriety of a Board at all – and again it is alleged that there was never a feeling in favour of the Establishment of the Board – in short that there was not a largely signed Memorial. Now it would be of much importance and highly satisfactory to myself and other Gentlemen if you could furnish me with a copy of the Memorial and its signatures which was the basis of the Sanitary measures, as we have reason to believe that the signatures of many persons now opposed to sanitary measures were appended to it.
We wish to satisfy our Neighbors that a larger proportion than required signed the Memorial, and to allay the augmented idea that the sense of the parish was not ascertained.
The original memorial I presume is amongst the documents at your office – and as we have no copy, your early compliance with my request would be esteemed a favor.
The memorial was sent about 7 years ago.
Endorsed [by the person receiving the letter] ‘Some objections have been made to such a course but I have none. Send it. WC’
Copy letter doing so

More about money and Walford’s account for plans.

4 November 1857. J Howell Blood to GBH (2700/57). Local Board of Health ‘in want of funds for the repair of the Highways’. Seek opinion of how to obtain same.

More about money.

13 April 1860. J Howell Blood to GBH (837/60)
Forwarding byelaws and advert (from Essex Herald, March 6).
Under Local Government Act 1858., Re streets, sewerage, walls of new buildings, to prevent fire, space about buildings re ventilation and circulation of air. Re drainage. advise closing of those unfit for human habitation. And for giving notice as to deposition of plans.
Endorsed [by the person receiving the letter] OK

12 August 1867. Letter from J D Shakespeare, J P, Witham, Essex, to Sec of State, Home Dept. (no number)
‘Sir, I have the honor to lay before you the following statement.
About three months since the Smallpox was introduced here by an Irish Hawker; it hung about the spot where the man lay ill and some deaths occurred, it has now spread generally and no part of the town is free.
I have used by utmost endeavour to draw the attention of the Local Board of Health to the existence of many nuisances and my efforts have to some extend done good where those of the most serious nature were found, but there are still many others which a little energy and outlay could remove.
On the 29th July last, Mr Gimson, a medical man of this place wrote to me thus “Neither isolation nor sanitary measures are at present attempted, although I cannot but think they are most desirable to check the further spread of the smallpox”; since I received this note, the disease has spread much further, fresh cases are continually reported, and there is one this morning within 50 yards of my house, the healthiest part of the neighbourhood.”  Since 1855 there have been periodical discussions about introducing into this town an effective system of drainage, in preference to the established cesspools; but nothing more has been done, no action has taken place during these twelve years.

In an Engineering sense the town possesses every facility for good drainage and it has been estimated that the works can be carried out, including a water supply, at the cost of A Shilling rate. For the last 18 months I have been reviving the question and have presented to the Local Board of Health a petition signed by 24 Owners or Occupiers, some of the most influential in the place, in favour of drainage, but I very much fear that those members of the Board who are inclined to act from a sense of public duty are outnumbered by those who think 1/0 rate too much to pay for public health as long as they are healthy themselves.

Under these circumstances which I can only briefly relate, I beg most respectfully to request your assistance under the 49th clause of the Sanitary Act of 1866’.
Endorsed [by the person receiving the letter] ‘Secretary – applies under the section of the Act – an Inquiry into the sanitary condition of the district. [different writing:] There can be no new proceedings under the 49 Section since the late opinion of the Law Officers. S F O L [or AFOL?]’

24 December 1867. From J D Shakespear JP Lt Colonel in the Royal Artillery, to Sec of State  (4222)
‘Sir. As a resident in this town I have the honour to bring to your notice the apparent total incapacity of the Local Board of Health to transact its business as “The Nuisance Authority”; possibly this may be caused by the fact of some of the Nuisances being on the premises of some of its members.

During my residence here of two years I have on several occasions complained in writing to them of nuisances existing of a most grievous description, one instance only I need cite as an example.
In or about December 1866 the cottagers in the locality known as Maldon Square [sic – probably Trafalgar Square] reported to the Nuisance Inspector that their public privy required emptying, this report was disregarded – in or about last June I was requested to view the premises and saw Masses of human excrement and vegetable matter festering in the surro. immediately adjoining habitations and at that time of year too dangerous to move.

I at once informed the Local Board of Health in writing of what I had seen and pressed the necessity of doing at once all that could be done, imagining they would disinfect and remove in due course. But having Typhoid fever close at hand and some Misgiving as to the Board of Health, I visited this morning the localities I had reported months since and heard from the Cottagers that nothing had been done in fact what had been reported replete with Soil twelve months ago was only so much worse from having been in daily use by many persons ever since. I could name other instances of neglect of the same class.

I regret most extremely not having made this report before, but I have been held back by the circumstance of my having presented to the Local Board a petition (some months since) signed by 24 Owners or Occupiers, begging that the subject of drainage might be seriously entertained; besides I was not acquainted with this particular neglect in Maldon Square till today.
I have learnt that the “Drainage of Witham” has been a subject of deliberation by the Board for twelve years notwithstanding that the town offers every engineering advantage and that the heaviest estimate yet made can be covered by a shilling rate.
Most respectfully begging your assistance on behalf of those who have turned to me for help, as well as for myself’.
Endorsed [by the person receiving the letter]  ‘Send copy to Local Authority for any remarks or explanations they may wish to offer’. Tell writer have done.

  1. 14 January 1868. From J D Shakespear as above. Private. (129)
    ‘You may remember my having had the pleasure of calling on you last year on the subject of “The Local Board of Health” and nuisance of this town.
    I now take the liberty of telling you with reference to your official letter to wit W 4222/7 of Dec 30th 1867 that nothing whatever has been done as far as it is in my power to know.
  2. The privies and cesspools complained of in my letter … 24 Dec … have not been touched and they are of course only so much more full.
    Without saying the exact distance these are from the cottages, I will venture to say they are within 10 feet, the occupants are poor people afraid of their landlord and who will not therefore make an official complaint to me as a Justice of the Peace.
  3. It is not a pleasant thing to have to make formal complaints but if this Local Board will not do their duty I shall again complain but perhaps if you were to enquire what had been done they might move’.

5 February 1868. Memo (364/68)
Sending ‘letter from the Medical Department of the privy Council Office … relative to the insufficient administration of the nuisances removal acts by the Board of Guardians of the Witham Union and the Local Board of the Town of Witham. From James ??? to J[?] Taylor esq., Local Government Act Office.

‘Reports on an epidemic of Typhoid Fever at Terling, by Dr R Thorne Thorne.’ Stamped [??] February 1868.
Printed. In two parts headed ‘First report’ and ‘Second report’.

The first report is based on visits to Terling from 21st to 25th December 1867, and from 6th to 13th January 1868 and is all about Terling. [Notes not made here on Terling but see the website The Terling Fever of 1867 – Historic Terling (]

The second report is based on a further visit on 29th to 31st January 1868. The first part is again about Terling, but he was instructed to visit other places on the way home and at the end there are shorter reports on Witham, Great Coggeshall, Messing, and Hatfield Peverel. I have only typed out the part about Witham which is as follows.
‘I was also instructed to ascertain, before concluding my visit, whether the other towns and villages belonging to the Witham Union were in a similar insanitary condition to that in which I found Terling, and with this view I spent a few hours in Witham, Great Coggeshall, Messing and Hatfield Peverel.

Sanitary condition of Witham. Witham is a small town, containing about 3,500 inhabitants, and is the only place in this Union which is governed by a Local Board of Health. The main streets have an appearance of great cleanliness and comfort, but on passing from them into courts and slums which are hidden from the general view, cesspools, dilapidated privies, with their contents running about the yards and gardens, heaps of decaying animal and vegetable matter, and every species of nuisance can be found in abundance. Some of the inhabitants live in hovels of the most miserable description, where they are surrounded by intolerable stenches, and, I was informed that they dare not complain to their landlords or to the Inspector of Nuisances of the filthiness around them, for if they go to the former, they fear that he will turn them out of their houses, whereas the latter is the relieving officer, and it is their belief that any complaints made to him would go far to prevent their receiving parish relief. But a more serious obstacle even than this exists to any sanitary improvement. The properties on which the worst nuisances exist belong to members of the Local Board, and I would especially allude to several groups of cottages belonging to a Mr Tomasin [Thomasin], the stinking nuisances around which render them unfit for human habitation. Mr Tomasin is a gentleman of large fortune, he has a seat at the Local Board, and yet, so much has he neglected the dwellings of the poor which belong to him, that the magistrates have been compelled to summon him before them, in order to force him to remove nuisances on his cottage property. In this town there is, as a rule, a common water supply for several cottages, and the wells are generally protected from contaminating influences. Witham has no system of drainage, but in all probability one will before long be constructed. It is an unhealthy town, and though there has been no special prevalence of specific fevers, still I am informed that disease here assumes a low type, and that strumous [sic] affections, rickets and phthisis, attack a large number of the inhabitants.

[Great Coggeshall – better state than Terling or Witham but many portions in a very dirty condition. Inhabitants mostly weavers, great depression in the trade, so many destitute. Messing moderately good but only because after fever four years ago which killed 23, improvements were made. Hatfield Peverel in disgraceful condition up to last few weeks, but committee appointed to improve it since Terling fever outbreak. Reason there was typhoid in Terling and not elsewhere, may partly be rise of surface water because of undulations etc and maybe different soils, which not found in the other places.

7 February 1868. Letter to J H Blood, clerk to Guardians, Witham Union (364/1868)
Re Epidemic at Terling, Witham Union. Directed by Sec of State for the Home Dept. Applied to by ‘Lords of Her Majesty’s Privy Council to take action under the 16th and 49th sections of the Sanitary Act 1866 (29 ad 30 Vict C 90) … he has directed Mr Arnold Taylor an Inspector of the Local Government Act Office to visit Terling and Witham … to report … It would be desirable that the Inspector … should be accompanied on his Inquiry by the Inspector of Nuisances of the Board of Guardians, and if the Chairman or any member of the Board wishes to take part … he will be at the Witham Station by the 11.42 Train from London on Monday in company with Dr Thorne of the Med Department of the Privy Council’.
Short notice because of severe epidemic.

8 February 1868. From J H Blood, Witham Union (headed paper), to T S [?] Taylor Esq. Loc Govt Act Office. (400/68)
‘I am extremely glad that Mr A Taylor is coming to inspect Witham and Terling. I have arranged that the Local Board of Health of Witham should be in attendance at the Union House, Witham … one oclock.’.

17 February 1868. Local Government Office (513)
Village of Terling. Report on an Inquiry and Inspection made 12 Feb 1868 ‘on a complaint made by the Medical Dept of the Privy Council’ against Board of Guardians.
Even if does what can, no effect till vestry lays down sewerage for ‘slop water and liquid refuse’ and ‘better water supply’.
‘I therefore asked Lord Rayleigh, who kindly and most readily acceded to my request, to secure the attendance of some of the leading Ratepayers … at a meeting in the vestry’
Lord Rayleigh, Revd Hill the vicar and 10 or 12 vestry men assembled. Vestry meeting arranged to form committee. Hope will be OK. By Arnold Taylor.

Letter from Terling
Are preparing a plan

Feb 27 1868. Report (658)
Sanitary Act 1866. The Town of Witham, Essex.
Report on an Inquiry and Inspection made at Witham on the 11th and 12th February’ 1868.
To Hon Gathorne Hardy, MP, Sed of State home Dept.
Mr Thorne Thorne went to Witham too. Local Board of Health there so ‘ample powers … had it chosen to use them.’

But in spite of these powers Dr Thorne found … that the Town of Witham had no system of main sewerage – no water, except such as was to be obtained from shallow wells and surface supply, and that many of the poorer parts of the Town were deficient in privy accommodation.
He also ascertained from actual personal inspection, that there was no systematic enforcement of the provisions of the Nuisance Removal Acts, and that large collections of offensive house refuse and filth were allowed to accumulate in and about the yards and back premises of the cottages and poorest class of houses within the Local Board of health District’.
After this report, requested further inquiry.

‘This having been done, Dr Thorne and I proceeded to Witham on the 10th inst, on the day following, in company with him, the Revd J Bramston (who is the Vicar of Witham and also the Chairman of the Local Board), Lieut Colonel Shakespear, a Resident magistrate, and some of the other members of the Local Board of Health, I made a detailed and careful inspection of the Town.

On the 12th … long interview with the Board of Health at their offices, nearly all the members having kindly assembled to meet us on the occasion. Mr Blood their Clerk and Solicitor being also present.

I was informed by the last named gentleman, that on the two questions of water supply and sewerage, the local Board of Health had already come to a decision, in as much on the 25th Jany 1868 they had accepted the report and recommendations of a Drainage Committee of their own body, who had reported in favour of the Plans and Estimates of Mr Church, for the Sewerage and Water Supply of their District, at an approximate cost of £5,715 … most satisfactory assurance, …

I then laid before them the results of my inspection of Witham the day before, and in respect of which, I beg to state that if, as Dr Thorne informed me, many layers of accumulations of filth and refuse had been cleared away since the inspection on which his report was pr[???], then that that gentleman was most amply justified, in all that he has said, with reference to the lax and imperfect way in which the Witham Local Board of Health have hitherto discharged their duties, as the Nuisance Authority for that Town.

There were three points on which I thought it my duty to address the Local Board of Health:
1st As to their system of nuisance inspection
2 As to the want of decent privy accommodation in certain localities
3 The necessity for a better system of scavenging.
With respect to the first it may be described as wholly imperative.
Mr Shee, who at present acts as the Inspector of Nuisances for the Town and Parish of Witham, is Relieving Officer of the Witham Poor Law Union of 17 parishes, and until very recently , he was also nuisance inspector for all these parishes, the greater part of which are still under his control.
Mr Shee was described by everyone as a most able and hard working public servant, but, with his other duties to discharge, it is simply impossible that he can carry out the functions of a Nuisance Inspector.

Accordingly it has not been understood, either by him or by the local Board, of Health, that he should ever initiate any proceedings against offenders, but that, if his attention was specially and persistently called to a particular nuisance, by any person aggrieved, then that the Inspector might, if he thought well, take regular proceedings under the Nuisances Removal Act.
Under such a system as this, the Inspector of Nuisances becomes a dead letter, hence private individuals, who in the case of offensive nuisances, are probably also very poor people, will not incur the trouble and odium of putting the law in motion against their neighbours, or possibly against their own landlords.

The Local Board of Health admitted that their system might be improved, and they seemed to concur with me in opinion, that the best person, efficiently to discharge the duties of a nuisance inspector, was either the Police Superintendent of the Town, or one of his Sergeants acting under him, if the services of either could be obtained for such purpose from the head of the Essex County Police.

as to privy accommodation. The Local Board of Health admitted that, in the poorer parts of the Town, not only was the accommodation insufficient but that in many instances, the buildings were so arranged and so placed, as to be, in themselves, actual offensive nuisances.
Till the very ample legal powers given by the 51st, 54th and 57th sections of the Public Health Act for the remedy of these defects are put in force, instead of their being suffered to remain in disuse, as they have been for years past, the Witham Local Board of Health must, in my opinion, be held to be guilty of a very serious default, in the discharge of one of the most important of their duties, as the Nuisance Authority of that parish.
I have to make the same remark on the removal of solid house refuse and manure.

Witham, being a small country town, and the houses and cottages having, in many instances, garden plots belonging to them, it is of some importance to their occupants that the solid refuse and night soil should be stored for manure. In such cases its removal by the Local Board of Health would be resented as an injury and an interference.

I am, therefore, far from suggesting that they should carry out the powers given them by the 32nd sec of the Local Government Act in any such arbitrary way. But it is clearly their duty to insist, that no solid refuse shall be so stored as to be a dangerous nuisance. And certainly, in many of the courts and yards I visited, where large heaps of refuse were found collected, it was not wanted for use on any adjoining plot of garden ground. I maintain that, in all such cases it is the duty of the Local Board to provide the means of frequent scavenging and removing, if occupiers are unable or unwilling to do it for themselves.

In fact, one or more public scavengers, with the requisite supply of barrows, carts and shovels, ought to be as much part and parcel of the plant and property of every efficient Local Board, as their office chairs and tables are.
I concluded my interview with the Local Board by stating that I should at once make my report to you … and on the undoubted defects and shortcomings … Further … I should ask … permission to have a copy of it sent to the Local Board of Health … report to you’ on progress in water and sewerage, and what steps for inspection, privies, and scavenging.
… I was met by the Board of Health in the most friendly manner, and that my suggestions were accepted in the same cordial spirit in which they were offered.

It does, I think, mark a very great advance on the part of the Witham Local Board, that after the inaction of so many years, they have at last decided to supply the two great needs of every town, a better water supply and  a good system of main sewerage’.
Arnold Taylor [handwritten].

29 February 1868. Letter from ‘W G Luard for the Deputation’. To Sec of Local Government Office (691)
‘Referring to my interview with you on Tuesday last in regard to the drainage of this place and the documents I then left with you I now beg to inform you that the deputation referred to in the copy resolution had an interview with the Board of Health this morning, and that the latter afterwards forwarded a written communication (copy of which I enclose) purporting to be a reply to the request contained in the first Resolution passed at the public meeting held on the 22nd instant. You will observe however that the communication from the Board evades the request made to them and refuses something else which they assume to have been asked but which in reality was not.

The Deputation have thought it right to send the Board a reply to this communication (copy of which I also enclose) and in default of receiving a satisfactory answer from the Board in the course of a day or two the Deputation intend to proceed with the proposed Memorial to the Secretary of State, which I trust will be ready for presentation by about the 10th proxime.

The Deputation particularly wish to call your attention to the second paragraph in the communication from the Local Board in which they allege they convened a meeting of the parish of the purpose of “hearing any suggestions” – I enclose you a copy of the handbill convening the meeting from which you will see that it was called for the purpose of “hearing the Resolutions of the Board” and no proposition was allowed to be put to the meeting which did not facilitate the particular plan proposed by the Board.
The concluding sentence of the same paragraph in the communication from the  Board would almost seem to imply that the Meeting held on the 22nd inst was convened by the Board, whereas it was called in opposition to their proceedings; and although a majority of the Board were present they declined to offer any remarks and all the resolutions were passed unanimously. I have the honor to be Sir, your most obed’t servt W G Luard for the Deputation’
Endorsed [by the person receiving the letter] [Several comments, not very legible.] Send a copy of Captain Luards letter and the answer to the LBd. Invite them to offer any suggestions for the furtherance of the object. This seems to bear up[?] the description of the meeting in the [???] MS[?] letter of the 29th ult.’
[???] [???] [???] Captain Luard that this [???] further letter and the handbill [???] inviting the attendance of the Parishioners[?] to hear the Resolutions of ?? & ?? will refer to drainage & water supply for Witham & Chipping Hill’.
[Another I can’t read though I think it refers to rates].

29 Feb 1868. Copy of letter from ‘W G Luard for the Deputation’, headed paper ‘Witham, Essex’ to the Witham Local Board of Health
‘The Deputation to the Witham Local Board of Health beg to acknowledge the receipt of a Memorandum without signature or address but which they presume to be a communication authorized by the Board.
The Deputation cannot consider such communication as any answer to the direct question placed before the Board at the request of the public meeting held on the 22nd inst which was “That the Board of Health be requested to take the sense of the parish before proceeding with their plan for draining the Town”.
The Deputation do not consider that taking the sense of the parish on this question would place at the decision of the Meeting the wider question as to whether the Town should be drained or not.
The Deputation have not asked the Board to leave the abstract question of drainage or non drainage to the decision of a parish meeting and they still urge the Board to favor them with a definite reply to the request conveyed by the resolution above quoted.

29 February 1868. Copy of letter from Witham Local Board of Health (691)
‘The Witham Local Board of Health acknowledge the receipt of a letter from Mr Palmer enclosing the copy of a Resolution passed at a parish meeting requesting the Board to receive a deputation from the parish.
The Board having seen the deputation consisting of Captn Luard, Messrs Abrey, Potter Garrett, Palmer and Chappell beg to state that they convened a meeting of the parish for the purpose of hearing any suggestions that might be made as to drainage which meeting was held on the 3rd February when those present declined to make any suggestions, and that parish meeting was held in pursuance of a numerously signed inquisition on the 22nd inst at which meeting the resolution above referred to was passed.
The Board cannot as a responsible body delegate the powers conferred on them by various Acts of Parliament to an irresponsible body and although they are desirous of having any suggestions made to them from the parish or individuals having reference to any improvement either in the way of efficiency or economy as to the mode of draining the Town of Witham and Chipping Hill they cannot consent that the abstract question of drainage or non-drainage should be left to the decision of a parish meeting.

 Copy of printed notice (691)
Reads: ‘WITHAM BOARD OF HEALTH. DRAINAGE AND WATER SUPPLY. The Parishioners of Witham are invited to attend A MEETING AT THE LITERARY INSTITUTE on MONDAY, 3rd of February AT SEVEN O’CLOCK, P.M., to hear the Resolutions of the Board, with reference to Drainage and Water Supply, for Witham and Chipping Hill; and they are invited to offer any suggestion for the furtherance of the object. Mr JABEZ CHURCH, the Engineer, will attend the Meeting. By Order of the Board. J HOWELL BLOOD, Clerk. WITHAM, 27th Jan 1868. R S CHEEK, PRINTER AND STATIONER, WITHAM.

from J Howell Blood to A Taylor Esq, Local Government Act Office,
8 Richmond Terrace, Whitehall, London’ (692)
Witham, 29th February 1868
Sir, Witham Drainage
Board of Health are determined to carry it out. ‘Many of the inhabitants consider that the question of drainage or non-drainage should be left to the decision of the parish and not to the Board of Health’.
For which see the following correspondence, i.e. a transcript of a letter   from G Palmer, Witham, 24 Feb 1868]
‘I beg to inform you that at a Public Meeting of the Inhabitants … unanimously resolved that the Board of Health be required to take the sense of the Parish before proceeding with the plans. And on behalf of this Deputation .. [appointed at the meeting … when can the Board receive the Deputation]’

At a meeting of the Board of Health held [29 Feb 1868]
Resolved … to     acknowledge … Palmer.
The Board having seen the Deputation consisting of Capt Luard, Messrs Abrey, Potter[?], Garrett, Palmer and Chappell beg to state that they convened a meeting of the Parish for the purpose of hearing any suggestions that might be made as to Drainage, which meeting was held on the 3rd Feby, when those persons declined to make any suggestions, & that a Parish meeting was held in pursuance of a numerously signed requisition on the 22nd inst at which meeting the Resolution above referred to was passed.

The Board cannot as a Responsible body delegate the Powers conferred on them by various Acts of Parliament to an irresponsible body, and altho they are desirous of having any suggestions made to them from the Parish or Individuals having reference to any improvement either in the way of efficiency or economy as to the mode of Draining the Town of Witham and Chippng Hill, they cannot consent that the abstract question of Drainage or non Drainage should be left to the decision of a Parish Meeting.
As you may probably hear something from the Parish of Witham on the above subject, I was directed to forward to you the correspondence that has taken place.
I have the honor to be Yours and faithfully, J Howell Blood.
Endorsements from person receiving the letter are hard to read. One refers to the letter from Luard.

2 March 1868. Memo from Arnold Taylor. Doesn’t say to whom.
Text is as follows:
‘Witham Correspondence as to Sewerage & Water Supply.
I have reported on Witham and given the strongest support possible to the Local Board for having at last decided to carry out the two great improvements of Water Supply and Drainage.

In order to save this Office much heavy correspondence might I suggest that you should decline to interfere in any way between Captain Luard and his party and the Local Board of Health. If the former receives any support from this office, the Local Board will be only too ready to [???] your action as an excuse for their non action. The time for this Office to interfere will be when the Local Board submit their plans and estimates for sanction to borrow money for their execution. Arnold Taylor.

2 March 1868, report from laboratory from J Thomas Way to Arnold Taylor Esq
‘Laboratory. 111 Victoria Street. March 2nd 1868.
Dear Sir. I beg to report to you the result of my examination of

seven samples of water sent by your direction from Witham in Essex. The samples were received on the 19th of February.

Sample No 1
from Mr Blood’s well (350 feet deep) is different in character, as in origin, from all the rest of the waters in the list – it is an “artesian” water very soft and similar in composition to that which is supplied to the fountains in Trafalgar Square. Although this water gives to Dr Cluskis’[?] soap test a hardness of about 2 degrees it is in reality more “soft” than the softest waters of Yorkshire or Lancashire – it contains 22 grains of carbonate of soda in the gallon & is therefore excellently suited for washing or other domestic purposes – though probably not so pleasant as a drinking water. The quantity of common salt in this water is very large, being nearly 41 grains in the gallon – this impregnation of common salt must be derived from deep seated sources – there is no ground for supposing that it is the result of any polluting agency. The water is remarkably free from nitrogenous constituents – whether in the form of Ammonia, albuminous matter, or nitric acid – indeed in this respect it is the purest water which has been examined in this laboratory since these particulars have formed a prominent point in water analysis.

No 4 from “pump in Elmy’s yard, Bridge Street” is a water which though somewhat high in the proportion of mineral residue and of great hardness (30 degrees) does not afford evidence of pollution of animal or vegetable matter – it gives as favorable an analysis as many samples of water extensively used for human consumption without suspicion of being unwholesome – though not of the very highest type I should consider it a wholesome water.

The other five samples of water in the list are in my opinion more or less polluted – of these probably no. 2 (“Mr Cranmer’s private well”) is the worst – it contains mineral matter to the extent of 114 grains in the gallon – of which 24 grains is common salt & has a hardness of 49 degrees of which nearly one third is due to sulphate and [???] of lime and magnesia. It contains a large proportion of ammonia and albuminous matter and an excessive quantity of nitric acid in the form of nitrates – the last column in the table shows that this water contains more than 5,000 grains of nitrogen in the form of nitric acid in 1,000 gallons or somewhat more than 5 grains in each gallon – this is equal to about 20 grains of nitric acid or about 37 grains of nitrate of potash.

I am aware that the presence of this or even larger quantities of nitrates in water does not per se render such water positively unfit for human consumption but it does, as an unfailing indication of sources of pollution – offer the strongest warning against its use as liable at any time to become highly injurious. In productions of nitrates from matter of an animal character is one of nature’s methods of getting rid of such matter and therefore of purification – but it supposes the pre-existence of the objectionable ingredients and we can never be safe that the curative process is complete.

It is unnecessary to mention particularly all the other samples – probably the water of the “Pump in Maldon Square” (no 3) [Trafalgar Square] is the next in the order of impurity as it contains a high proportion of albuminous matter.

Nos 6 and 7
are evidently waters in which the purifying process (of the production of nitrates) is caried out to great completeness but in my opinion these waters although perhaps perfectly wholesome at the time when the samples were taken may at any time become unfit for use. There are therefore five samples in the list the use of which for drinking purposes should be abandoned.
I am dear sir, yours truly, J Thomas Way.’

Followed by table of the samples for hardness, mineral residue, chloride of sodium, ammonia, albuminous matter, and nitrogen from nitric acid. The wells are:
‘Mr Blood’s deep well (350 ft)
Mr Cranmer’s private well
Pump in Maldon Square
Pump in Elmy’s yard, Bridge Street
Pump in Mill Lane
Pump in Rusts yard, Chipping Hill
Mr Stevens’ private well’.

4 March 1868. Letter from Terling
Re Vestry meetings etc. Henry Cawdron to Arnold Taylor. Wells sorted.

  1. 6 March 1868. From J Howell Blood to Taylor (749)
    ‘Sir, I beg to acknowledge the receipt of Mr Arnold Taylor’s Report as to the Sanitary State of Witham and also a letter from yourself with a copy of the correspondence with Capt Luard.
    I have to observe that the Board of Health having after long and anxious consideration, determined that Drainage and Water supply were necessary, adopted certain Plans prepared by a Mr Church. The Board called a meeting of the parish for the 3rd February. The Hand bill calling such meeting has been provided to you by Capt Luard and it was intended to express a wish to have the opinion of the parishioners on the subject of drainage and water supply and to have suggestions made in furtherance of that object. I believe the only resolution proposed at that meeting was “That this meeting request the Board of Health to take the sense of the Parish as to whether the town should be drained or not”. The Chairman declined to put the motion, and I feat this has caused annoyance. When the deputation attended the Board they again asked that the sense of the parish should be taken, but they did not say on what particular subject and the Board naturally concluded it meant the sense of the Parish on the question proposed at the meeting, as to whether the town should be drained or not, and an answer was sent accordingly, which answer I am glad to see you approved. On behalf of the Board I shall shortly submit plans to you for approval and I am quite sure that I am justified in saying that if any more economic and at the same time efficient plan can be shewn, the Board will gladly accept it.
    I have the honor to be Your most faithful servant, J Howell Blood’.
    Endorsed by the person receiving the letter ‘Send a copy to Captain Luard and say that the chairman was acting in the proper discharge of his duty in refusing to put such a resolution’ [rest hard to read].

7 March 1868. Another from Terling Vicarage to Arnold Taylor

 10 March 1868. From  W W Luard. to Taylor, Local Government Act Office (809).
‘Memorial against proposed drainage scheme, Witham. … Sir, I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of yesterday’s date enclosing copy of a letter from Mr Blood of the 6th instant and of your reply to that letter.
On behalf of the Deputation I beg leave to point out that Mr Blood’s letter does not fairly represent the question at issue between the Parishioners and the Local Board of Health.
At the meeting of the 3rd February it was distinctly stated by the Chairman that a particular plan of drainage had been definitely adopted by the Board, and we were invited to offer suggestions for the furtherance of that plan and no other. As this plan was considered entirely inappropriate and far too costly, a resolution was proposed, but not put to the meeting, the exact words of which were “that the Board of Health be requested to take the sense of  the parish as to the drainage of the Town”. Had this course been adopted other plans might have been suggested and the present state of dissatisfaction avoided but as this resolution was not put to the meeting and therefore does not exist at all, it seems irrelevant on the part of the Board to refer to it in explanation of a much more definite resolution – which was carried without a dissentient voice at a very large public meeting, namely “that the Board of Health be requested to take the sense of the parish before proceeding with their plan for draining the Town”, more especially as upon the receipt of the unsatisfactory reply of the Board the Deputation explicitly stated that the question upon which it was wished the sense of the parish should be taken, was not as suggested by the Board “whether the town should be drained or not”, but as to the particular plan adopted by the Board.
The Parishioners are not only willing but desirous that proper sanitary measures should at once be adopted, and I have now the honor to forward a memorial from a very large majority of the owners and ratepayers, which they feel assured will receive the attention and consideration so nearly unanimous an expression of opinion is entitled to claim.
I have the honor to be Sir Your most obedt servant W W Luard, for the Deputation.’.

21 March 1868. From Arnold Taylor (809/68)
Board of Health stated that will shortly submit plans

  1. Report. Not signed (899)
    Handwritten report under Sanitary Act 1866 re Terling etc. Account of what happened so far. Also includes entries from Guardians minutes, 1867 Dec 16 etc. Conclusions.Copy of letter 9 Jan to Guardians from John Simon re Terling

More re Terling.

  1. 19 March 1868. From J Howell Blood, Witham Local Board of Health (914) Mr Church will deposit plans at Local Government Act Office.

  2. 30 March 1868. From J Howell Blood, Witham Local Board of Health (1159)
    Copy of resolution etc. (application for loan of £6000 for works of drainage and water supply, proposed Rev John Bramston, seconded Mr Beadel, carried unanimously).Tables of estimates under LGA 1858.
    Estimates for sewerage works, Witham.
    First page under brick sewers says ‘No Brick Sewers required’. Rest has .list of lengths of sewer, with the following details:
  3. Gradient in 100 ft.
    Average depth
    Lengths, yards lineal
    Price per yard lineal
    £ s d
    The places are as follows:
  4. [some may have the left hand side slightly trimmed off]:
    Bridge Street
    Engine House up High Street
    Back Street
    Witham House to Maldon Road
    Maldon Road (2 sections)
    Maldon Road
    Mill Lane (3 sections)
    Guithavon St (3 sections)
    Queen St
    Main road [?] chipping Hill
    Church Street
    Church Street
    Block drainage for cottages
    [?] Under Railway – cast iron
    [?] River – wrought iron

Outfall works: ‘Cast iron rising main from the engine house to the Witham settling tanks with stand pipe over which the sewage from the low level section will be pumped. Pipes and connections complete’.
Special flushing works: ‘Six 6” stand pipes to be attached to the sewers and flushed from the hydrants fitted with flexible hose and lockdown grates. These pipes are also to act as ventilation’.
Pumping works: ‘Centrifugal pump. Cast iron receiving tank with gear and connections complete’.
Sewage irrigation works: ‘Settling tanks, valves, pipes and connections for conveying sewage upon the land in close proximity with the settling tanks both at the Witham and Chipping Hill outfalls’.
Land. Engineers commission. Contingencies and legal expenses. Total for sewers £2,862 0s 0d.

Estimates for Water Supply works, Witham
Table of lengths of ‘cast iron mains’, giving
Size  (all 3” except 5” for first one)
Length in yards
Price per yard
£ s d
Lengths are:
From Engine House along part of High Street to Queen Street
From Engine House to Union.
High St up Mill Lane
Guithavon St from High St
East [???] of High St
Back St
Maldon Road
From High Service Reservoir to Chipping Hill
Upper part of Mill Lane
Church Street
Cost also includes bends, hydrants and casings, sluice valves and casings, ‘land, artesian well, engine house and commission’.
Pumping works in detail: ‘One 8 HP High Pressure and Condensing Engine with expansion gear, two Cornish Boilers three 8” [???] well pumps to be worked by eccentrics keyd upon a 5” wrought iron shaft driven by a spur wheel and pinion’.
No impounding reservoir.
Service reservoir: ‘The service reservoir is of wrought iron and will contain 20,000 gallons, the tank will be 20 feet deep and will be fixed upon a brick tower having a square base with an octagonal shaft the height of same being 50 feet from the surface level to the bottom of the reservoir. The tank will be enclosed at the side thereof with brickwork and the top will be covered with a roof. The rising main to supply same will be 5” diameter and connected with the bottom of tank and will also be fitted with a 5” overflow pipe and wash-out the same will be connected with the sewer. The supply of water will be constant’.
Total for water £3,138 0s 0d.

 More on Terling [not noted]

  1. 21 April 1868. From J Howell Blood, Witham Local Board of Health (1408)
    Acknowledge receipt of your letter of the 3rd ult and Mr Arnold Taylor’s report. ‘I have to inform you that the Board have resolved to continue Mr Shee the present Inspector of Nuisances in his office for a period of 6 months at a salary of £8 and have directed him to make a thorough inspection of he whole parish … nuisances … privy accommodation and report.   …
    Scavenging, the Board consider that more frequent visits by their Inspector and requiring the immediate removal of all Manure or other offensive matter … will be an effectual means. …’
    Endorsed by Arnold Taylor: Won’t be enough on ‘paltry salary’ [deleted and ‘???’ salary included instead] offered.’

  2. 28 April 1868. Letter from Robert Rawlinson (1492)
    Recommending agreeing loan. Well calculated.
    Endorsed by person receiving the letter: Sanction recommended.

9 May 1868. letter from W G Luard
Acknowledges letters saying will be official inquiry on 2th instance re estimates and plans. Ask for plans to be sent to Board of Health for parishioners to inspect.

  1. 9 June 1868. From John Bramston (2076)
    ‘A few weeks since a meeting of the parishioners was gathered to meet Mr Rawlinson from the Local Government Office..’ I was asked me to take chair. Mr Church was there and also Mr Chancellor architect and engineer presented a plan. Resolved to send both plans to Sec of State. May they now send Mr Chancellor’s.
    Endorsed by person receiving letter. Yes

  2. 15 June 1868. Copy letter from Local Government Act Office (2076)
    Reply to letter of 9 June from Bramston re ‘rival plans’ send plans etc. from Robert Rawlinson.

  3. 2 July 1868. From J Howell Blood to Taylor (2380)
    Plans sent ‘a long time since’ and request for loan. Resolution passed at Parish meeting laid your letter of 16th ult before the Board of Health on the 27th ‘and on the other side, I send you copy of the resolution passed at that meeting’.(i.e. Board done all they can and sent to Home Office. Board decline to comply with conditions laid down in Taylor to Bramston.)

  4. 17 July 1868. From Clarke, of Victoria Chambers, to Local Government act Office. (2859)
    Acknowledgement. Will deal quickly.

  5. From J Howell Blood to Taylor (3155)
    Mr Clarke to whom the plans referred, have made report recommending Mr Church with slight modifications that adopted. Please proceed re loan.

  6. Clark to Taylor (3206)
    Saying same as last

  7. 3 September 1868. Robert Rawlinson. Report. (3211)
    ‘Witham is a town having a population of about 3,500
    persons and a rateable value of £14,000 per annum.
    At present there is no system of main sewerage and house drainage is therefore, necessarily defective. There is no public mode of water supply. Some of the better class houses are drained into cesspits and water is obtained from pumps, wells, and springs. The subsoil is an open alluvial gravel so that sewage matter can filer into it to the contamination of well-water in the vicinity of cesspits – most of the cottages have neither drainage nor proper means of water supply’. LGB was sent plans. in March. In February a memorial sent from town saying public meeting of ratepayers objected to Local Board of Health plan as not the best.
    ‘After due notice to both parties I attended in Witham and inspected the district as also looked over certain rival plans … Chancellor and heard the complaints of the memorialists … [who] admitted … works … necessary, the dispute being as to details. I recommended that an independent Civil Engineer should be authorised at the cost of the ratepayers to survey the district … report … assented to and William Clark Esq Civil Engineer has surveyed … report. Local Board of Health received … accepted … on 29th ult, make further applic … £7,000 … Mr Church … as modified by Mr Clark.’ Approve but only sanction first estimate till more details.
    ‘The proposed works when executed will be of great and permanent public utility in the town of Witham’.

  8. 7 September 1868. J Howell Blood to Taylor (3245)
    Some time ago deposited plans … ‘Those plans have not yet been officially approved, tho I understand are virtually so, they have gone through a somewhat severe ordeal’. Anxious to commence.

  9. 8 September 1868. From J Howell Blood  (3245)
    Acknowledge receipt of letter and sanction.

23 Oct 1868. J Howell Blood to Taylor (3751)
Tenders accepted. Can have advance of loan?
Endorsed by person who received the letter: Need to apply to Public Works Loan Commissioners.

  1. 14 December 1869, George Adnams to G C Lewis esquire. (3899)
    ‘Witham, Sir, Having the management of House property in Witham I shall feel obliged if you will inform me if I can use earth closets. I have made enquiries of several members of the Board of Health but cannot obtain this information. I remain, Yours respectfully, George Adnams.’
    [he was managing the late George Thomasin’s property; he was Thomasin’s wife’s brother in law]
    {Endorsements by person receiving the letter. As usual hard to read.] ‘Refer him to the section which … as to earth closets‘ … Sanitary Act … (31 & 32 Vic c105) any enactments and any act of Parl  … as any place … the constrn of a water closet shall … approval and the Local authority be satisfied … and an earth closet a place for the reception of dedor… and fecal matter made … in regulation from time to time.’

End of file   PRO / TNA  Ref. MH 13/209 (General Board of Health and Home Office, Local Government Act Office: Correspondence)


A dissenting voice.

On 31st January 1869, Dr Henry Dixon wrote in his diary about the new works. He lived in Rivenhall then, but had previously been a doctor in Witham. He was a staunch nonconformist in religion, and a defender of the rights of the poor. So he frequently opposed the doings of the establishment. This time his words do seem rather to contradict the ideals of his professsion. This is what he wrote.

“Witham is in an uproar.  Contractors and Navies are cutting up the streets to form a culvert as a main drain to all the cesspools & other offensive matters from the dwellings.  This culvert is from 6 to 16 or more feet deep into which the House holders will have to carry drains, at their own expense.  Water is to be pumped up by steam to flush the drains, and the outlet will be carried on to a great distance before it is ultimately discharged upon some convenient spot, not yet determined, upon Socketted glazed Pipes from the culverts, made somewhere in Yorkshire.  The expence of this formidable work will be not less than £8,000 and think so small a parish of but 3 or 4000 inhabitants falling for years to come upon small traders will I expect be ruinous to many.  I think £400 or 500 would if judiciously used been fully sufficient to clear away the nuisances complained of.   I have a full knowledge of every cottage and locality in the place that required alteration & further more know something of drainage”.The photo of Dr Dixon is ref. M1515


 Success   – the photos


The Water Tower

The Water Tower was completed in 1869,.and was the most obvious sign that Witham at last had its own water supply and drainage. These two photos of the Tower, above and below, are copies from the late Roy Poulter’s collection. He was once kind enough to lend them to me.

The picture above is  dramatic in itself, but also because it shows us that imposing doorway. I wish I knew who built it all.

The photo below is from the roadside, from a different angle – so no door. Collingwood Road itself was built in the same year, 1869, on land given by the Oliver family, owners of Freeborns farm. It connected the railway station and Newland Street. In addition one of its  purposes was to give access to the Water Tower.

In the photo below, the building on the left housed the office of the local authorities, first the Local Board of Health and next, from 1894 onwards, the Urban District Council. Then in the 1930s, when mains electricity arrived in Witham, it became the electricity shop.

By the way, it seems that whatever you do with a photo of a water tower, it always looks as if it’s leaning over – sorry about that.


Above, the Water Tower in about 1905-1910 (ref.M1732). The long Public Hall, built in 1894, is finished, in front of and left of the Tower. But the new Constitutional Club, built in 1910 beside the Public Hall, isn’t there yet. This photo was probably taken in black and white originally, though  colour was coming into use. Fred Hayward, who took it, was one of Witham’s best and best-known photographers, and may have been standing at his house, at the top of Collingwood Road (now number 55).

Below, in 1916, soldiers marching down Collingwood Road with the Water Tower behind them (ref M0453). They were billeted in Witham for training during the War.

The photo below is  interesting (my ref.M0604). The man in the trap seems to have chosen to be photographed in front of the Water Tower (in about 1910). Yet it was he, as Captain or Mr Luard, who in 1868 led a deputation opposing the Board of Health’s final plans for drainage and water supply. He was over-ruled. By the time of this photo, in aboout 1910, he was Admiral Luard, one of Witham’s best-loved gentlemen.


The Waterworks

The new waterworks premises were behind the Swan, at the bottom of Newland Street. The exterior and interior of the main building are shown in the first two photos below. These were taken by me in  1988 [my refs P18/19, 20]. It had the attractive  brickwork which often featured in Victorian waterworks buildings. I understand that this is where the water first arrived, having been brought from somewhere on Lord Rayleigh’s land. His help was very welcome, but sometimes people were anxious about being so much under his control. I think the water was then pumped from the waterworks  to the top of the water tower, and then distributed  by gravity to individual properties.





The Waterworks cottages

It was an important job, keeping the water supply flowing. The UDC provided these houses (below), mainly for the waterworks engineers – they are still there. The first one to be built was the one on the right, occupied by the man who ran the pumping station which took the water up to the water tower. This information was given to me by the late Peter May who was brought up in the left-hand cottage, built in 1929. His father was Len May, clerk of works of the Council’s outdoor workers.



The Swimming Pool

After the first waterworks had closed, there was a successful campaign for the old tanks to be used as a swimming pool. Before that, the Council’s “Bathing Place” was in the river Blackwater. The new pool is shown in the photo below, with the Waterworks Cottages behind them.


The Fire Station

Witham’s original Fire Station was in a small brick buiding which still stands at the corner of Guithavon Street in Mill Lane. During the Second World War, more space, more vehicles, and more men were needed. So additional men and additional buildings were provided, known as the Auxiliary force. The photos below show the Auxiliary Fire Station which was put next to the Waterworks  during the Second World War [taken by Harry Loring:in 1967, my ref.M0342].  Then there are some of the firemen who were based there (ref.M1502). They were known as the Auxiliary Fire Service (AFS). In April 1941 the old and new forces were amalgamated into the National Fire Service. Most towns about the country had similar arrangements to cope with the extra demands of War time.

The Drainage and Sewerage System

The two pictures above show the Sewage Works House in Blackwater Lane. Like the Waterworks cottages, they enabled the workmen to be on hand to deal with any problems. The Hammond family were in charge for many years. The buildings were used  for many other purposes. For instance, the lower picture shows the old stables where all the Council horses lived and were cared for. Their help was needed by alll the different departments.


Lastly, the  Hydrant  which still stands, on the pavement outside the former site of the works. Here the powerful water pressure from the works could be used when needed, particularly for fire fighting.  American hydrants are yellow so they can be found more easily (taken in 2023).


Witham UDC, Council minutes 1945-1947

Witham UDC Council minutes 1945-1947

No cover. Has page numbers starting at 733 so probably came out of previous volume.

Mostly noted Witham rather than Silver End and Rivenhall. __________________________________

16 April 1945, AGM, page 733 [first item in book]

Councillors Maidment and Cuthbe to continue as Chairman and Vice-Chairman.

Same date, in Committee, page 734

Letter from Miss Lucy Croxall, ‘Area Commandant, Witham and District Girls Training Corps’. The National Association of Training Corps for Girls holding cadet week May 6-12. Hope to have Parade and Drumhead Service on Sunday 6th. Invites Councillors and asks permission to use Recreation Ground. Agreed.

30 April 1945, page 735

Street Lighting. Circular received from Ministry. Asked Council to extinguish street lighting from May 1st for period of double summer time. Agreed

Fireguard services to be wound up.

[page 736] Arrangements to be put in hand.

Town Planning Scheme discussed. Took into consideration report by Surveyor. Also financial aspect to improvements in High Street between Bellamy’s Winches in Newland Street and Glover’s in Collingwood Road [i.e. narrow part between 38 and 64 Newland Street].

Bypass proposed round Witham and Rivenhall End given consideration. Agreed unanimously that it should not be included in the Plan, and that alternative, either by widening High Street and Bridge Street, or otherwise, should be carried out. Felt generally by passes not best means.

Approved proposal for improvement to entrance of Church street at Chipping Hill entrance.

28 May 1945, page 737

Report from Mrs R Pelly about WVS in last 6 years. Long. To be circulated.

Location of Retail Businesses. Mr P A Revett of 12 Guithavon Road applied to begin business as ‘cabinet maker, upholster and house furnisher’. Agree.

Sitting as Town Planning Committee, page 738

Plan 1121 from Messrs Betts and Longhurst of Romford re Moat Farm estate. Letter expected so defer.

P A Revett asked for temporary workshop at rear of 12 Guithavon Road as cabinet maker. Don’t agree.

Accounts as usual

25 June 1945, page 741

WVS report circulated. Letter of appreciation to be sent to Mrs Rosalind Pelly, the centre leader.

G Turner resigned as Sanitary Inspector. Thanks for his work.

Hon Secretary of Welcome Home Fund is arranging events July 7th to the 13th. Asks District Council to arrange concert on 9th. Officers offered to do it.

The week concerned is also local Holidays at Home week, so regard the effort as part of the Council’s arrangement for this, and allocate £25 to the officers for the concert.

[page 742] After reports from Essex meeting etc., Council consider that local co-ordinating Committee should be set up re welfare of ex-service men and women and families and dependants. Consult the voluntary organisations for views, and then have a meeting.

[page 743] Re Public Health Committee. Ministry of Supply will arrange early removal of books that the Council still have, and hope Council will reconsider taking part in the new Drive. Answer that will if can.

Same date, as Town Planning Committee, page 744

Further development of district. Clerk has discussed with County Planning Adviser. It appeared that ‘some major future development of the district might be suggested later’ [no details], what were Council’s views. Agree in principle.

Clerk had heard of a Company in West Ham who anxious to build factory elsewhere in county, he approached them and asked them to consider Witham. Approved.

Chairman and Vice Chairman left meeting ‘on account of otherwise experiencing difficulty in transport to their homes’.

Part exchange offer of new typewriter accepted.

16 July 1945, page 748

Plan 1121 for Moat Farm Estate. Submitted by G A Joslin, architect, of Brentwood, on behalf of Universal Welding and Engineering Company of Harold Wood. Council not satisfied that would be carried out immediately. May have to be taken into account with other major proposals of a major character.

3 July 1945, page 749

Permanent housing proposals. Ministry of Health sent list of architects. Resolved to employ an architect and approach Mr A E Wiseman of Chelmsford. If not, try Mr F W Chancellor of Chelmsford.

Circular received. Additional powers given to Local Authorities re requisitioning unoccupied houses, for ‘housing persons inadequately housed’. Resolved to make register of unoccupied property and present to Council.

30 July 1945, page 750

Re election of member for South Ward on death of Councillor J N Pelly. Four names received. Only Mrs R Pelly got any votes (5). She is of Blunts Hall, Blunts Hall Road. She therefore to be elected.

Same day, in Committee, page 751

Public Hall. Secretary of Witham Congregational Church enquired about quote to use the Hall on Sundays for Religious services between 10 30 a.m. and 12 30 p.m., and 6 p.m. and 8 p.m., from first Sunday in November to last Sunday in March 1946. Information re costs. Resolved that labour would be available, and quote £3 3s inclusive per Sunday.

[pages 751-752] Register of properties to consider for requisition. Resolved to requisition the following subject to approval of Ministry of Health:

1 ‘Barclays Old Bank and premises, Newland Street’. [no. 59 or 61]

  1. ‘Medina Villas Newland Street, including the empty shop if that be necessary’.
  2. No — Newland Street, being an empty shop with living accommodation.
  3. ‘Durwards Hall Lodge, Rivenhall’
  4. No 47 Newland Street
  5. The Aye-Aye café, Hatfield Road.

Clerk and Surveyor had viewed hutment accommodation ‘at the abandoned Searchlight Station, Wickham Hill’. Seven or eight hutments would, with small alterations, water and cooking facilities, and septic tank, be very good.

[page 752] Mr A E Wiseman, architect, will do new housing in Glebe Crescent.

Temporary Housing. Ministries of Health and Town and Country Planning have given permission for temporary housing at Runnacles Street, Silver End and Church Street, Witham. Resolved that ‘the engineering work involved be carried out by the Surveyor with direct labour, using, if required, German prisoner of war labour’ [note:these were the prefabs].

Planning applications approved, including from Essex County Council for Junior and Infants School at Cressing Road [this is Templars School]

24 September, 1945, page 754

Welcome Mrs R Pelly as Councillor, and Mr E H C Wadhams as Sanitary Inspector.

British Restaurant Committee of 7 September presented. Clerk had letter from three LNER employees asking for deferring. Clerk had written back saying concerned that Committees’ recommendation had become public knowledge before being put to the Council. Report adopted nem con. (Cllr Cuthbe abstained).

[page 755] Housing. Surveyor’s plan for layout at Wickham Hill and conversion approved. Choice of tenants left till known whether Council permitted to take it.

[page 756] Layout etc from Mr Wiseman, architect – comments listed, and disagreements.

29 October 1945

[pages 759-60] Bankside, Highfields Road, demolition and clearance. One tender received for work of demolition. Sent to Regional Home Office for approval [note: probably the bombed house near the railway].

[page 761] Medina Villas. Arrangements made with Mr Burton of Messrs Baker and Burton, architects of Colchester, to prepare specifications.

In connection with Housing Committee’s decision to ‘install Crittall windows in their new permanent houses at Church Street’, ‘resolved they be of Crittall Galvanised Steel’.

Thanks to British Restaurant people.

[page 762] Circular received re fuel economy.

Unsafe state of condemned property at 34 Bridge Street. Owner is H D Brown of 30 Bridge Street. Not possible to contact him but Mrs Brown said he is trying to get a local builder. Mr Brown was told of unsafe state in January 1944. Resolved that he be given 48 hours notice, otherwise Council will ‘exercise their powers under the Clearance Order by demolishing the property and recovering the cost in accordance with the law’.

Same day, in Committee

Plan 1133, from Adams and Mortimer, revised lay out of Cocks Farm Estate. To refer to North Essex Planning Committee.

[page 763] ‘Land at Chipping Hill known as Blade Wenden’s yard’ [note: formerly Smith’s yard, between the Albert and 1 Braintree Road]. Application on behalf of owners and also from Playle of Maldon on own account, for use of certain land for industrial purposes, resolved that proposals should be advertised at expense of applicants.

[note: I stopped making notes at end of this meeting].

Last one in these papers is 19 March 1947.

The Grove

A mansion was built here by the first Robert Barwell in about 1690. He had apparently profited in the cloth industry. Like the earlier clothier, John Freeborne, he was a Quaker. When he died he left his property to his grandson, another Robert Barwell. He and his relatives added considerably to the land and buildings so the estate came to include a number of separate pieces of land.

For several decades in the 1700s, the Earls of Abercorn lived here (some of them titled Paisley or Hamilton). In 1761 the future Queen Charlotte stayed overnight at the Grove with the Abercorns. Local people were allowed to gather to watch her. She was on her way to London to marry King George III (whom she had never met).

In due course an avenue of trees was planted on the other side of the road, the origin of our road called The Avenue. Philip Morant wrote about the Grove in his history of Essex, saying that it was “a good house” and that “the noble owners of it have improved the estate, with plantations of trees, and other decorations”.

The next resident was Thomas Kynaston from London, who was also Lord of the Manors of Chipping and Witham. It was he who had a bath house on the River Brain (see )

In 1805, Roger Kynaston, Thomas’s son, sold the estate to the Du Canes of Great Braxted. The main Du Cane resident in Witham was the Reverend Henry Du Cane, a magistrate. Although he does not seem to have been attached to a parish, he was firmly attached to the Church of England, was extremely annoyed when a new Cathilic church was built opposite him.

In 1841 his household consisted of nine servants and seven Du Canes, the youngest of the family being Percy aged six months. In 1839 the usually non-committal Tithe Award described the estate as “a Mansion House, Garden and Pleasure Grounds”. In 1848 White’s history described it as a “fine old mansion of red and black brick … with pleasant grounds”, and across the road “a beautiful avenue of trees, about a quarter of a mile long, and open to the public”. Many observers had noted how the Grove stood at the entrance to the town, and enhanced the view of Witham as seen by travellers from Colchester. This might have been affected when that road was taken up over the new railway to Maldon in 1848. But we can see that the Grove had become one of the grandest places in Witham. And by this time a possible rival, Witham Place, was in decline.

The next surprising thing to happen was the sale of the Grove’s entire contents. This was in 1883, after the deaths of both Henry Du Cane and his widow. It’s quite impossible to do justice to the Sale catalogue but if you are in the Essex Record Office, read it (ERO Sale Catalogue B5183). There were 1460 lots, in 18 bed and dressing rooms and four reception rooms. The first summary page included 3,000 volumes of books, two haystacks, wine, greenhouse plants. But as I say I can’t possibly describe it all. Quite a large field at the back, the Grove field, would account for the farming equipment. After it was no longer cultivated, it was often put to use for pageants, cricket matches etc.

Part of the grounds are occupied by the old police station, and some by offices. The Grove field is now the Grove housing estate.

Some arrangement must have made the house liveable in. Because in 1896 Percy Laurence bought it. He was very active in the community and gave land to good causes such as the Constitutional Club and the War Memorial, and a new town clock when the old one burnt down in 1910. He was also president of a large number of Witham organisations. Laurence Avenue is named after him.

When he died in 1921, the Grove estate was divided into lots and put up for sale. Then another sale in 1932 disposed of the fixtures and fittings, and in the following year the house was demolished. Some sizeable “outhouses” were retained, and provided very acceptable family houses until they too were pulled down in 1967.

There is a  more detailed account of the history of the Grove in the Essex Record Office, reference ERO T/P 198/10, “Survey of the Grove”. It was prepared by the Witham Archaeological Research Group in 1967.

Rowley’s Rooms, the Grove Hall, and the East family


This photo is dated 1957-60 and was taken by John Scott-Mason. The tall gabled building set back, right of the chimney, is the former  Rowleys Rooms which became the Grove Hall. Some of my Facebook friends kindly identified the car as being a Moggy (a Morris Minor with a split screen). ‘A well-built car


1929 Rowleys Garages, motor, electrical & general engineers; motor car agents; Daimler hire service; garage; official repairers to A.A. & R.A.C. High street & (works) Maldon road. T N 32
1929 Rowleys Garages, motor, electrical & general engineers; motor car agents; Daimler hire service; garage; official repairers to A.A. & R.A.C. High street & (works) Maldon road. T N 32
1933 Grove Hall Cafe & Service Station (late Rowleys) (F. W. East A.I.Mech.E. proprietor), motor engineers & garage; official repairers to A.A. & R.A.C.; up-to-date servicing of all descriptions; taxi & bus hire service, High street. T N 32
1933 Rowleys Garage, see Grove Hall Café & Service Station
1937 Rowleys (Witham) Ltd. motor car agents & dealers, motor engineers, & garage, & motor haulage contractors & electrical engineers, Maldon road. T N 32. See Advt. Index


Braintree and Witham Times 15 November 1929, page 2
Report of British Legion branch at ‘Rowley’s café’.

Braintree and Witham Times 22 November 1929, page 1
‘Witham News …’
At Rowley’s Hall, Miss Marjorie Brown, M.O.A.D., and Miss Catherine Brown, M.O.A.D, ‘gave a dramatic recital and display of dancing in aid of the Witham Nursing Association and the Colchester Hospital’.

Braintree and Witham Times 29 November 1929, page 2
County meeting of British Legion at Witham in Rowley’s restaurant. 

Braintree and Witham Times 6 December 1929, page 1
Witham: …
Sale of work in Rowley’s hall re church. …
Advert for ‘Rowley’s Rooms, Witham,. Dancing every Friday, 8 pm to 1 am; admission. Single 2/-, Double 3/6. Special late buses’.

Braintree and Witham Times 13 December 1929, page 1
Adverts, Rowleys room again [and repeated thereafter]

Braintree and Witham Times 20 December 1929, page 1
Hockey Club dance in Rowley’s rooms. One of MC s was A C Askins.

Braintree and Witham Times 17 January 1930, page 1
Dancing continued at Rowleys Room

Braintree and Witham Times 7 February 1930, page 1
Rowleys ad as usual. Dancing every Wednesday. Says ‘new floor’. Special late buses ant trains to neighbouring towns. Stan Bearman and his band.

Braintree and Witham Times 7 March 1930, page 2
Dancing takes place every Wednesday evening at Rowleys Room.

Braintree and Witham Times 28 March 1930, page 1
Rowley’s Garages Witham. Cars for sale described.

Braintree and Witham Times 17 April 1930, page 1
Advert Rowley’s Café Witham. Grand Easter revel and dance 4/- each incl refreshments. Prizes. Cabaret. Special late buses.

Braintree and Witham Times 5 December 1930, page 5
Last night at Rowleys Hall, Witham branch of British Legion held a dance in order to raise funds to relieve distress among local unemployed.
Sale of work at Rowleys Hall by ladies working party of church. Vicar said ‘Witham had changed in last few years. Formerly almost purely agricultural, Witham was today an industrial town and its prosperity depended chiefly on the industries … Unfortunately at present industry was not so prosperous as they would like to see it and some of the people who depended on it were feeling the pinch. But the people of Witham had always responded most nobly to any call put before them, and despite present day difficulties he felt sure they would once again do their best’. Annual sale for parish needs this year instead of foreign missions. [but seems to be for church maintenance]

Braintree and Witham Times 13 March 1931, page 5
‘Conducted by Councillors. There were 110 present at Rowley’s Hall on Sunday, when the Witham Brotherhood service was conducted entirely by members of the Witham UDC. …’

Braintree and Witham Times 4 February 1932, page 10
Refs to meetings and dances at ‘Rowleys Hall’ here and at other times.

Braintree and Witham Times 6 October 1932
page 8 ‘The business of Rowley’s petrol station and tea rooms officially changed hands as from yesterday, the new proprietor being Mr R East, late of Petersfield, Hants. Mr and Mrs B Rowley have moved to Hoddesdon, Herts, where Mr Rowley has taken over the hold Highway Tavern’.

First phone conversation between JG and Rosemary Brown, nee East. 10 November 2002.
Now of 15 Speedwell, Woburn, Milton Keynes. MK17 9HT (tel. 01525 290012).
She is wife of Stewart Brown. She is 84 now (2002). Her family came to Witham when she was about 14,  i.e. c. 1932.
She was daughter of Frederick and Frances Rose[?] East. Her mother was born in Dublin and sent to England when her parents died. Frederick and Frances’s children were Bob (b. c. 1911), Josephine, Frances, Doreen, her (Rosemary) (b. c. 1918), Patsy, Tony (in order, i.e. Bob eldest).
She had a happy childhood though father very strict, a Victorian father almost.
They lived in Avenue Road. Father’s garage on corner of Avenue Road and Newland Street and they were at ‘The Bungalow’ behind it in Avenue Road, a sort of bungalow. Above it there were no other houses on their side, up to the bend in the road, just a field with sheep in it.
The garage was the Grove service station; he sold it to Beardwell, who also bought the hall later. It was taken over during the war.
There was a dance-hall and restaurant to the left of the garage in Collingwood Road [note: probably should be Newland Street.???] Big building that went right back. A café in front. There were special Monday night dances for 6d in the early 1930s. Bob East ran them.
She used to go to open air swimming pool behind the Swan, and was in the swimming club. Mrs Ingram, greengrocer’s wife was a champion swimmer and trained them, they entered competitions and had sports day etc.
She was shy. Shortage of young men after WW1. Girls danced together at dances. Big groups of friends went around in a crowd. Eg moonlight walks round Terling, a dozen of them, boys and girls. Young for age.
She was naughty at school, didn’t work. When they came to Witham she and her younger sister and younger brother went to Mr Osteritter’s school in Guithavon Valley. He perhaps Austrian. Going down Guithavon Valley from the top, from Collingwood Road, you passed a row of houses and then came to his little house, low down, a sloping path down to it. School in sort of conservatory at the back. Mostly young boys, some from Dr Barnardos or some such. She would work separately in another room. She left at 16 but her sister Patsy went on to Colchester High School and her brother Tony to Miss Murrells.

Second telephone conversation with Rosemary Brown, nee East, 21 February 2003
Her father Frederick East was made redundant from good job in rubber factory in Petersfield, had big house there. Came down in the world to come to Witham 1932. Her father was a mechanical engineer but hadn’t run a garage before. They were foreigners in Witham then.
Re the garage and dance hall at the corner of Avenue Road and Newland Street. The Easts came here in 1932. Before that the garage was Rowley’s garage, so ‘Rowley’s rooms’ that I found in the local newspaper c 1930 with dances etc must be the same one. There were two Rowley sons, Len who had a band, and went into WW2 and did well, and Wilf who was more of an engineer and stayed with the garage. The Easts called it the Grove Hall. Doreen and Frankie East ran it, they hadn’t done anything like that before but were ‘domesticated’ and did well, young and energetic.

Further info from Eve Sweeting, Bob East’s step-daughter, discussed in 2002. Bob East built 18 Highfields Road, c. 1955. Bought ground from Mr Brand the baker. He married Eve’s mother (Mrs Canning). He only died last year, at age of 90.



Braintree and Witham Times 1930.
page 2. Witham and District Homing Pigeon Society. Meet every Tue at 8 pm. Cups and medals. Secretary is Mr G Speight.
page 4. Advert for Pigeon Society. President W L Maclaren. Vice Presidents Lieut Col E A Ruggles Brice, MP, C R Baldwin esq., C Warren esq. Chairman H M Barham esquire. Sec Mr G Speight. Invitation to all fanciers.

Interview with Ken Miller, born 1935. Lived at Moat Farm. Extract about an episode in about 1950.
Q: That was when you were …?
Mr M: Still young, yes, like, fourteen or fifteen I suppose.
Q: Did your mum work at all?
Mr M: Yes, she worked, she worked at the people, she was cook in Faulkbourne Hall for a while. Yes. Cause I was horrified, I went there once [in c.1950] and there was hundreds of pigeons, white pigeons in the proper dovecote, and I said what are they, of course they killed them to eat. And I was horrified as a kid to think that they actually bred them to eat. White pigeons. I suppose they were nice and tender cause they were corn fed and all that.



The National Archives

Pigeon policy (KV 4/229-231)  from 1945 to 1950

These files relate to the Security Service’s interest in Britain’s post-war pigeon policy (which was led by the Joint Intelligence Committee).


Covering 1945-1947, KV 4/229 deals with the establishment of a post-war sub-committee of the Joint Intelligence Committee to examine pigeon policy. The Security Service was initially not included in this committee, and when it was, there was a conflict with the Secret Intelligence Service about whether a military or civilian pigeon loft should be maintained (eventually the Security Service view won out, and a civilian loft run by Captain Caiser from his home in Worcester Park was established). The Second World War had revealed that pigeons were now obsolete for signals purposes, but still had a role to play in intelligence work, and the JIC was anxious to ensure that Britain maintained its own pigeon capability and was adequately protected against enemy pigeons. The proposals are fully considered on the file, which includes the Security Service assessment of the post-war plans. The file includes an appraisal of the wartime anti-pigeon Falconry Unit (“whilst they never brought down an enemy bird – probably because there never were any – they did demonstrate that they could bring down any pigeon that crossed the area they were patrolling”). The file also includes the results of experiments on the impact of radio transmissions on the effectiveness of homing pigeons.


The story continues in KV 4/230 (1947-1949). The armed services dropped out from the sub-committee in November 1948, having no further interest in the subject, leaving just the two intelligence agencies and Captain Caiser. There was some correspondence about the control of pigeons in a future war with the Home Office as it updated defence regulations. JIC asked the sub-committee to examine the impact of radiation on homing pigeons, and as a result a number of pigeons (and their handlers) were exposed to small doses of gamma radiation in the Arethusa experiment at Portland dockyard, to no recordable effect.


Finally in 1950, as recorded in KV 4/231, Caiser asked the Security Service for some funding for his expenses in maintaining the government loft, which triggered an examination of the costs and benefits of the loft. As the loft had barely been used in 5 years, the Service recommended that the loft be disbanded and the Pigeon Committee wound up, and this was agreed in May of that year.