Dated buildings 4 : Avenue House, 4 Newland Street, 1757.

Dated buildings are the ones which have a date written on them, usually the date when they were built.  The dates usually seem to be accurate, except for the Spread Eagle (number 1).

This is part of a survey of Witham which was carried out by Janet Gyford in 1990-1992. There are more explanations at the end of this post.

1757 – ‘Avenue House’,  4 Newland Street (re-building the front wall of the house)

W  M

P54/4, P54/5, P88/6.

Xeroxes included:
– Title page of James Taverner, An Essay upon the Witham Spa, 1737.
– Poem on the death of William Wright Esq. (Chelmsford Chronicle, 9 June 1769)
– Part of engraving dated 1832 by George Virtue.
– Part of sale particulars dated 1874 (E.R.O. D/DBs T111).
– Part of sale particulars dated 1929 (E.R.O. Sale Catalogue B419).

Building Plans: none

To start with, I’ll talk about what happened before the new frontage was built in 1757. The house was originally a ‘medieval timber-framed building, possibly C.16, which was largely rebuilt in the late C.16 – early C.17’. The 16th century part of the building includes two windows at the back. The door case and its shell hood are early 18th century. The hood was extensively restored in the 1930s by local carpenters. There are 18th century details inside including a staircase.

The house was bought by the clothier Robert Barwell the elder of the Grove in about 1684, as part of the takeover by him and his family of the whole of this northern end of Newland Street (see the entry for Grove House, 1 Newland Street, in 1973). He rented it out to Samuel Williams, a maltster.

By 1705 Robert Barwell had sold the house to his grandson, Thomas Waterhouse, who had ‘pulled it down and new built it’ and lived in it himself. He had formerly been a clothier also, but by this time was a gentleman, and one of the ‘principal inhabitants’ of Witham; he was churchwarden in 1703 and on other later occasions.

This corresponds with the time when the house was ‘largely rebuilt’, according to the building structure mentioned above. The style of brickwork with black ‘headers’, was very popular in Witham in the early 18th century. It is still remains on the end of the house and was probably used for the front also at that time (see photo P55/2).

Thomas Waterhouse sold his properties and moved away in about 1730.The house changed hands twice quickly, and was then occupied until about 1748 by Martin Carter, a prominent local lawyer who had a hand in the establishment of the spa in Witham (see below). When the 1742 Window Tax was assessed, this house was shown to have 30 windows. He then moved to what is now the Witham library building nearby.

So Avenue House was advertised to be let or sold, described as ‘a very good house, with a Brick Front … containing five rooms on a Floor, with very good Garretts, Lawndry, Brewhouse, Wash house, Stable, Granary and other convenient Outhouses, and a garden partly wall’d and well planned with Fruit Trees of the best kind’.

By 1753, Avenue House was reported to have been divided into two tenements, though it is possible that one was the adjoining house, which is said to be 18th century (now Newbury House, no. 2). The two occupants rented the accommodation. One of them was Timothy Skynner, a mapmaker; there were probably a father and son of the same name working in Essex between 1713 and 1767. In 1752 one of them drew a map of Blunts Hall farm in Witham. The other occupant was Widow Wright, whose husband had probably been John Wright, a wealthy Witham cooper who had died in 1749.

Their son, William Wright Esquire, had bought the property by 1753. He was previously a farmer at Benton Hall farm in Witham; was a churchwarden several times, and was a magistrate in the 1760s. His brother was John Wright, who left Witham to make his name in London as a coachmaker, and then returned to Essex to rebuild and live in Hatfield Priory in the adjoining parish of Hatfield Peverel.

By this time Witham Spa had been flourishing for nearly twenty years. It elevated the fashionable sensibilities of Witham, which had an effect on buildings like Avenue House in the centre of the town. The spa was established by Dr James Taverner in 1735 (see xerox). The spring itself was in Powershall End, and many of the associated assemblies, balls and concerts took place in that area, in addition of course to the taking of the waters.

The Advertisements said that ‘the virtues of this excellent Spa … have been already experienced by many Patients, who have received the greatest Benefits from their Use in some very deplorable Cases, and upon the Recommendations of some of the most eminent Physicians in London, as well as others’.

The visitors were able to lodge in the more commodious Newland Street, because if they did not have ‘the convenience of an Equipage’, they were provided with ‘a Hackney Chaise or Coach … to convey them to and from the Spa at an easy expense’. So the whole town was affected by the pressures to impress the fashionable visitors, or what Dr Taverner called ‘any person of a genteel Appearance and Behaviour’.

Even in the adjoining parish of Terling, property was advertised as being ‘about two miles from Witham Spa’. After the advertisements for the Spa ended in 1754, elegant activities continued in the town, in particular a series of ‘Concerts of Musick’ and Balls, some of which were accompanied by ‘an elegant and genteel supper’.

In these circumstances, William Wright and his wife Mary must have found Thomas Waterhouse’s fifty-year old red and black building to be rather unfashionable. So, soon after their purchase they copied the practice of many of the other house owners of Newland Street, and had a grand new front added to the building, of more refined all-red brick, with an imposing parapet at the top.

It is their initials, W and M.W., that are shown on the rain-water head, with the date 1757. The new pipe-work would have been necessary to take away the water collecting behind the parapet. The arrangement, with the husband and wife’s initials together and the initial of the surname above, is the usual one for such inscriptions (see also the entry for 134 Newland Street in 1779).

William Wright died in 1769, and a eulogistic poem appeared in the local newspaper, concluding that ‘posterity his merits shall proclaim, and tho’ he’s dead for e’er shall live his name’. His will shows what extensive properties he had acquired, with land in Witham, Great Totham, Little Totham, Wickham Bishops, Mundon, Latchingdon and Althorne, and the advowsons of Asheldham and Althorne churches; these were bequeathed to his sons William and Thomas. He left £1000 each to his nieces Ann Luard and Elizabeth Firmin. His widow Mary stayed in the house for thirty more years until her own death in 1801.

In 1806 the house was bought by Henry Du Cane, a retired clergyman who lived opposite at the Grove, and was a relative of Peter Du Cane of Braxted Park. For some time thereafter, both no. 2 and no. 4 were lived in by single or widowed women members of the Du Cane families. For instance, in 1851, Eliza Du Cane, widow, lived at no.2, whilst no. 4 housed Louisa and Anna Maria Du Cane, unmarried sisters aged 68 and 67, with a footman, cook, housemaid, under-housemaid and groom.

This northern end of the street, away from the river and its smells, was one of the most genteel parts of the town, and Avenue House has a prominent position in an early 19th-century engraving of the area (see xerox; Avenue House is the large building behind the group of people; no. 2 which adjoins it is hidden in the trees to the right). The 1874 Sale Catalogue described its ‘commodious’ accommodation. There was an entrance hall, dining room, drawing rooms, seven bedrooms, dressing room, W.C., four attics, kitchen, larder, scullery and cellars.

Gas and water were laid on, and there was also a three-stall stable, coach-house and brew-house, a productive walled garden, and a right to a pew in the parish church of St. Nicholas (see xerox). The 1929 catalogue gave more details and referred to the ‘wide period staircase’ (see xerox).

(Department of the Environment – Historic Buildings: Survey Report, Witham Urban District, c.1970; information from Mr F Gaymer; E.R.O. (Essex Record Office) D/DBw M various (manor no. 89); E.R.O. D/NC 3/30; E.R.O. D/P 30/25/22; 30/25/45; E.R.O. Q/SR 544/40; E.R.O. D/P 30/25/87; E.R.O. D/DP E136; E.R.O. D/Z 3; A.S. Mason, Essex on the Map: the 18th Century Land Surveyors of Essex, 1990; E.R.O. T/M 35; E.R.O. D/P 30/14/1; E.R.O. Q/SBb 233/4; E.R.O. D/P 30/25/71 & 72; conversation with Mrs F Cowell in 1989; Ipswich Journal, 29 May 1742, 2 May, 11 June, 30 June, 1743, 31 May 1746, 28 May 1748, 12 June 1756, 10 March 1759, 19 January 1760, et al; Chelmsford Chronicle, 9 June 1769; E.R.O. D/ABR 26/143; P.R.O. (Public Record Office) HO 107/1783, f.196 (1851 census returns); E.R.O. D/DBs T111; E.R.O. Sale catalogue B419).

Notes about the survey.

Dated buildings are the ones which have a date written on them, usually the date when they were built.  The dates usually seem to be accurate, except for the Spread Eagle (number 1).

This survey of Witham was carried out by Janet Gyford in 1990-1992. Ray Powell of the Victoria County History had suggested such surveys as a project for Essex.

The numbering is in date order.

The original version of the survey is in the Essex Record Office as D/DU 1394 addl. Accession A8888. That and my own (Janet Gyford’s) own copy contain numerous illustrations. Not knowing whether I will ever manage to include the illustrations in this web version, I am putting just the words here in case they might be of interest. I find that they were quite detailed.

Beware that some of the written information will be out of date, for instance about who occupied certain buildings.

If you would like to find some relevant photos, you could try putting the name of the place you want and/or the street, into the Search or Menu box at the top of this page.

This work would not have been possible without the kind and very generous help of my friend Carol Asrari, who took my grey typing of 1992, and retyped  this very smart web version from it- how different were those days.

JG 2020


Dated buildings 2 : 46-48 Bridge Street, 1703

Dated buildings are the ones which have a date written on them, usually the date when they were built.  The dates usually seem to be accurate, except for the Spread Eagle (number 1).

This is part of a survey of Witham which was carried out by Janet Gyford in 1990-1992. There are more explanations at the end of this post.


1703 – 46-48 Bridge Street
(Demolished, probably in the 1950s)

Inscription: – ‘1703’

– None

Xerox included:
– Postcard including the building, immediately to the right of the almshouses (M238).

This building has been demolished, probably in the 1950s, and no close-up pictures were found. The 1947 list of buildings of historic interest described it as follows: – ‘built 1703 timber-framed and plastered, roofs tiled, 2 storeys. and attics. In bad state – derelict and ruinous internally, plaster largely off front and only small part of oval date panel – 1703 – remains’.

Bridge Street was probably built up piecemeal originally; its north side, where this property lies, was in Blunts Hall manor, and the south side in Howbridge manor. It is narrow, like the lower end of Newland Street, of which it is a continuation, and during the 18th and 19th centuries, both were predominantly, though not exclusively, occupied by poor people, with many crowded cottages in small ‘yards’. Some occupants are detailed below. Many were farmworkers, who were the lowest paid men everywhere. Thus, there was often a contrast to the wider and more prosperous upper end of the ‘planned’ Newland Street.

Furthermore, by the 19th century, these particular houses, being ‘old’, were cheaper than newly built houses. In 1841 their rental value was £3 6s. per year each, and the owner was James Thomasin, the owner of the brushmakers’ yard. In contrast, his Faragon Terrace, across the street, had a rental value of £8 when new-built in 1869 (see the entry for 59-67 Bridge Street, in 1869, which also gives more information about the Thomasin family).


At no. 46 they were:

1841              Sarah Branwhite, aged 64, with an agricultural labourer as her lodger

1851              Thomas Edwards, aged 30, a coach painter, with his wife, Ann, and three young children

1861              Thomas Trew, a tanner, with his wife, Mary, and six children aged from 10 months to 13 years  the son aged 13 years was working with his father

1871              Alfred Bickmore, aged 56 and blind, formerly a carter, with his wife, Hannah, their daughter Mary Ann, a dressmaker, and their son and grandson

1881                still Alfred Bickmore, now described as a jobbing gardener, with his wife and daughter, and now two young grandsons, one described as an ‘imbecile’

1891                Hubert Norman, aged 28, carman to a miller, with his wife, Maria, and six children, of whom the eldest was aged seven.


At no. 48 they were:

1841                Stephen Nunn, aged 30, a male servant, with his wife, Susannah, and four young children

1851                Charles Cole, aged 61, an agricultural labourer, with his wife, Hannah, a washerwoman, and their son, Abraham, a brushmaker

1861 to 1891 Henry Hubbard, aged 44 in 1861, a bricklayer’s or general labourer, with his wife, Emma, though she was not in the house in 1881. In 1861 the Hubbards had seven children at home, aged from 2 months to 16 years; the eldest was a daughter ‘at home’, next were two boys, aged 14 and 12, who were a cowboy and a labourer at a fellmonger’s yard.
In 1871 there were nine children there, aged from 2 months up to 24 years; the eldest four were boys, all described as agricultural labourers. Only three sons remained at home by 1881, and only one in 1891, when Henry and Emma, the parents, as noted in 1861, then aged 74 and 64, were ‘kept by children’.



‘Provisional list of buildings of architectural or historical interest…’, Ministry of Town and Country Planning, 1947; E.R.O. (Essex Record Office) D/P 30/11/17; HO 107/343/16, f.15 (1841 census returns); RG 9/1107, f.10 (1861 census returns); RG 10/1695 f.6 (1871 census returns); RG 11/1809, f.9 (1881 census returns); RG 12/1425, f.4 (1891 census returns) ).


Notes about the survey.

Dated buildings are the ones which have a date written on them, usually the date when they were built.  The dates usually seem to be accurate, except for the Spread Eagle (number 1).

This survey of Witham was carried out by Janet Gyford in 1990-1992. Ray Powell of the Victoria County History had suggested such surveys as a project for Essex.

The numbering is in date order.

The original version of the survey is in the Essex Record Office as D/DU 1394 addl. Accession A8888. That and my own (Janet Gyford’s) own copy contain numerous illustrations. Not knowing whether I will ever manage to include the illustrations in this web version, I am putting just the words here in case they might be of interest. I find that they were quite detailed.

Beware that some of the written information will be out of date, for instance about who occupied certain buildings.

If you would like to find some relevant photos, you could try putting the name of the place you want and/or the street, into the Search or Menu box at the top of this page.

This work would not have been possible without the kind and very generous help of my friend Carol Asrari, who took my grey typing of 1992, and retyped  this very smart web version from it- how different were those days.

JG 2020

Labour Local Election Address, 1964


The nationwide local elections of 1964 included the ones for the Witham Urban District Council. Labour councillors had been in the majority for sixteen years, and Ted Smith had been chairman for two years. Their election address sets out their plans for the future of Witham, following an agreement with the London County Council who were to bring new jobs and residents to the town. In 1964, Labour gained the most votes and continued in the majority.

In 1964 in this ward, the north, there were two people to be elected. The Labour candidates were Ted Smith and Jim McElrea, as shown by the election address. I interpret the handwritten notes to mean that Ted Smith had most votes with 617; he continued as Chairman.  Mr Last was next with 561 and these two were therefore elected. Third was Jim McElrea with 554, seven votes behind. This was probably the occasion when dozens of people spoke to Jim the next day and said they would have voted for him but they had thought he was sure to be elected anyway, and/or they didn’t quite get round to it.








The Balladeers


Account by a member, Jon Robinson: typed from Jon’s manuscript by Janet Gyford. See also photos M2134 and M2135.

 The Balladeers – Folk Rock and Cabaret Band


Formed in approx 1962-63.

Original members: Jonathan L Robinson (lead singer), Patrick Elligott (rhythm guitar), Alan Battley (lead guitar), Trevor Rudkin (drums). We were all members of 1st Witham Scout Troop.

The band started practising in the ‘Scout Hut’ at the bottom of Newland Street. Entrance opposite the Crotchet Inn.

The Balladeers were formed in preparation for a reception at Witham Public Hall in honour of a Scout Troop from Essen in Germany.

We had camped with this troop in 1962 at a site near Venho in the Netherlands, and the Germans were always marching into camp playing their guitars.

We rather envied this so when the 1st Witham Troop returned hospitality after the 1964 Essex Jamboree we wanted to prove we could put on a show as good as them.

The Civic Reception was held in 1964. We had a good response from the public.

By this time Alan Battley and Trevor Rudkin had left and they were replaced by David Ainsworth and Trevor Gilbert (both 1st Witham Scouts).

Trevor Gilbert (son of Ted the Bread) became lead guitar and mandolin, and David Ainsworth became bass guitar. Bob Ashcroft (one of our Scout leaders) became our manager.

We then started to practise behind Gilbert’s bakery (in between the dough machines).

From then on we had lots of local bookings, e.g. Constitutional Club, Red Lion, The George Folk Club and British Legion Hall.

At the British Legion Club we used to hold Social and Theme nights. One such night was a ‘St Trinians’ evening. All the band members and party goers dressed as ‘School children’.

All these socials were compered by Bob Ashcroft. Bob was a very good compere and we had full houses every time.

The troup played Gigs in London and Home Counties and Francis Golightly’s week-long revue at Braintree Institute.

Whilst on holiday at Caistor on Sea we entered a talent competition. This we won and for our hard work we won a torch/screwdriver.

In approx 1966-67 we recorded an EP at studios in Luton. We were transported there by Trevor’s uncle in his Dormobile.

One number, ‘Kinky Creature’, was written by ourselves. Word and music by Robinson / Elligott.

I think it as in 1968 we were voted the most talented and up and coming band by the ‘Stage’ newspaper – the next ‘Seekers’.

We started to take on bookings – i.e. Hartlepool Football Club and Sunderland Working Men’s clubs.

At Sunderland on the Sunday lunchtime we were on the same bill as female strippers. We shared just one changing room, much to the dismay of our girl friends.

We also played clubs in the Rhonda Valley, South Wales, e.g. Treorchy, Mountain Ash, Tony pandy, etc.

In fact in one club we were ‘Top of the Bill’ in Tom Jones’ club, before he became famous.

We also played the ‘First Club’ in Ipswich, where we supported Diana Dors – a very kind and lovely lady.

The Balladeers performed at several showcases and were asked to play at the opening of the new Civic Centre in Gravesend. We topped the bill and there is a plaque on the wall at the Centre which mentions all the entertainers on the bill. I think it is still there.

Dave left the group sometime later as he had other commitments, and we engaged Richard Gowers from Chelmsford. He fitted in very well.

In the mid-seventies, the band, because of work commitments, was unfortunately disbanded.

The Balladeers were temporarily re-formed in the 1980s in honour of Trevor who was leaving the area. The gig was held in Marks Tey Village Hall and a great success it was.

David and Jonathan joined different bands, Trevor moved away and Patrick concentrated on his career.


Jon L Robinson, 14/01/05




From: “Bedenham, Dot” <>
Subject: The Balladeers
Date: Mon, 14 Feb 2005 13:01:56 -0000

Just going through my sent mails to delete them and came across your email. I have found a reference to a folk group called the Balladeers – it was an advert in the Essex Chronicle for 8th October 1971. The Balladeers Folk Group were to play at The Beehive Great Waltham.

Hope this is useful

Best wishes, Dot.


The Bull family


Assorted notes on the Bull family of Witham.   By Janet Gyford.

From Images of England, Witham by Janet Gyford
‘During the 1920s and 30s, ‘Billy’ Bull took over the studio at no. 34 Newland Street, where his wife had a ladies’ dress shop. His father William had kept the Red Lion. His was a ‘daylight’ establishment, specialising in portraits.’
[previously, 34 Newland Street had been occupied by other photographers, i.e. Harry Hall, Fred Hayward (briefly)]


Directories (these stop in 1937)

1906 Bull William, Lion P.H
1908 Bull William, Lion P.H
1910 Bull William, Lion P.H
1912 Bull William Lion P.H
1914 Bull William, Lion P.H
1914 Bull William Ernest, photographer
1917 Bull William Ernest, photographer
1917 Bull Catherine (Mrs.), Red Lion P.H
1922 Bull William Ernest, Red Lion P.H.
1922 Bull William Ernest, photographer
1926 Bull William Ernest, photographer, 34 Newland street
1929 Bull Wm. Ernest, photographer, 34 High st
1929 Anita (Mrs. A. G. Bull), milliner, 34 Newland st
1933 Bull Wm. Ernest, photographer, 34 High st
1933 Anita (Mrs. A. G. Bull), milliner, 34 High st
1937 Bull Wm. Ernest, photographer, 34 High st
1937 Anita (Mrs. A. G. Bull), milliner, 34 High st



Census returns

1881 census, RG11/1809, folio 38, schedule 20, Collingwood Road Cottage

(one of 3 with this address)

William Bull Head M 26 Coachman born Essex, Rivenhall
Catherine Bull Wife M 25 born Lincs, Bourne
Kate Hemsell Bull Dau 2 born Essex, Witham
William Ernest Bull Son 9 mo born Essex, Witham
John Kennett Hogben Boarder U 21 Postman born Kent, Ramsgate


1891 census, RG 12/1425, folio 49, schedule 30, Braintree Road

William Bull Head M 36 Coachman, servant (employed) born Essex, Rivenhall
Catherine Bull Wife M 35 born Lincs, Bourne
Kate H Bull Dau 12 Scholar born Essex, Witham
William E Bull Son 10 Scholar born Essex, Witham
Emily M Bull Dau 8 Scholar born Essex, Witham
Sidney G Bull Son 7 Scholar born Essex, Witham
Victor L Bull Son 2 born Essex, Witham


1901 census, RG 13/1725, folio 22, page 6, schedule 34, Newland Street

[between Angel Inn (39-41) and Spread Eagle (49-51)]

William Bull Head M 46 Coachman, domestic (worker) born Essex, Rivenhall
Catherine Bull Wife M 45 born Lincs, Bourne
Kate H Bull Daur S 22 Dressmaker (own account) born Essex, Witham
William E Bull Son S 20 Photographer’s assistant (worker) born Essex, Witham
Emily M Bull Daur S 18 Grocers cashier (worker) born Essex, Witham
Sidney G Bull Son S 17 Grocers assistant (worker) born Essex, Witham
Victor L Bull Son 12 born Essex, Witham
Catherine Hunt Aunt Wid 75 Living on own means born Leicester, Gt Glen
Gwendoline Starkey Visitor 8 born Southwark St George, London

Military Tribunals
These were introduced in 1916 during the First World War, when conscription into the army started. Men appealed to them to be postponed or excused altogether.

Essex County Chronicle, 26 May 1916
page 6, 
Military Tribunal. Hon C H Strutt presiding. Also ‘Messrs S Abrey, Q D Greatrex, P Hutley, JP, CA, E J Smith, Eb Smith, E Wood, with the military representative, Mr E Pelly, and the Clerk, Mr S Daniels’.
‘Wm E Bull, married, professional photographer, Witham, with a branch at Braintree, appealed on grounds of business hardship. The Chairman: The Government are meeting cases of hardship by a system of grants. Mr Pelly contended that photography was not of national importance in war time. Applicant urged that photographs were really a necessity, as soldiers and their relatives wanted photographs. Postponed two months’.

Essex Weekly News, 26 May 1916, page 5
Married professional photographer, Witham, with a branch business at Braintree, applied on the grounds of business hardship. He was working single-handed with the exception of an apprentice, who, however, would be leaving shortly to join the Army. He was the only photographer over a wide radius, and if he had to go the business would be closed. – The Chairman pointed out that the Government were meeting cases of hardship by their system of grants; and Mr Pelly argued that photography was not of national importance in war time. Two months were allowed.

William E Bull, Military Tribunal. Chairman Hon C H Strutt.

The Witham Muster Roll recorded the men who served and survived in the First World War- see a copy on this website at:
The original is in the Braintree and District Museum.

It shows that, “W Bull” from Witham served in the Forces but I don’t have any more details.

Bill to Mrs Sneezum, 9 September 1916
Two of Mrs Sneezum’s sons had died in the First World War. George was killed in action in May 1916 and his brother Charlie had died from wounds in 1915. So Mrs Sneezum’s large photographic order may well have been for photos of her sons.
I have a copy of the bill to Mrs Sneezum from W Bull for photographs. I haven’t yet succeeded in putting it onto this website.

Essex Weekly News, 12 September 1919, in Scrapbook of newspaper cuttings compiled by Mrs Ena Macpherson
“Died in husband’s arms. Mrs Annie Gertrude Bull, aged 66, wife of Mr W E Bull, photographer, Witham, died suddenly on Sunday evening. She had been in bed with heart trouble for three days. Telling her husband she felt faint, she died almost immediately in his arms. Mrs Bull, who before her marriage 40 years ago, was a Miss Kent of Maldon, had lived in Witham 50 years. She was employed in the milliner’s shop of Mr Lake near the Old Post Office, and in 1926 opened her own shop under the title of “Anita”. There is one son”.

Comments from people who knew the Bull family.

From tape 190, interview with Mrs Ena MacPherson
“And there was Mr Bull, who was a friend of my father’s, who had a photographer’s just by his, [near the George] Yes, Billy Bull. And his wife, she opened a little dress shop called Anita, in that corner [near the George]. He was a great friend of my father’s. They used to play billiards once a week in each other’s houses, you know…

He had a little studio in Braintree. He used to go there once a week and have, yes, photographs, yes portraits, that would have been. I don’t think he went out. No, he had a studio at the bottom of the garden.

“Where did they live?” Bulls? Next to the, what’s the pub on (Q: George, the George). The George, yes That was, she had that little shop, she had a little shop built in that corner, a little gown shop. And everybody was pleased …

From tape 41 interview with Mr and Mrs Ager
Mr A:  “I mean the pubs were open at six o’clock in the morning. (Q: Yes?) Six o’clock in the morning old Billy Bull, at the Red Lion, he used to dump his matting on the path, that was to let people know he was open. Great big old door mat. And they see that laying there and in they’d go. (Q: Yes.) That’s six o’clock in the morning.”

 From Tape 122 ‘The Good Old Days’, meeting held 30 November, 1988
Dr Bill Foster:     ‘Can you remember the photographer, in Newland Street, called Mr Bull. I got my first passport photograph from him. He seemed quite surprised when I went in, I said ‘Can I have a photograph please’ and he stood there, he had a big room and enormous apparatus, put the black thing over his head and there was dust blew these things, dust blew all over the place. Produced a very good picture though.’

Letter from Peggy Blake (former photographer)
(nee Butcher) 5 March 1999
There was another photographer in Witham during my childhood – he was still going, I think, in 1936. His name was Billy Bull, and he had a daylight portrait studio above his wife’s dress shop. He had no shop window beyond a wall-hung showcase, exhibiting sepia postcards, at a time when they were fast following the Dodo. He was a nice man….. Billy Bull and wife lived and worked in Newland Street, their premises right next door to the George pub.


There is a photo of the Studio when it was occupied by Harry Hall, the Bull’s predecessor (Roy Poulter’s photo 59)

Photo M428 (on this website) shows the George, and in the corner to the right of it is Modes, which used to be Anitas run by Mrs Bull, and then part of what was Bull’s studio behind that.

I am having trouble inserting the first onto this page so it will have to come later, but you can see the second one at
and in fact I see in the published version of this post it has inserted itself !


Ebenezer Smith


Ebenezer Smith in 1936


Signalman on the railway until his retirement from work in 1936.

Held innumerable voluntary posts, including especially:-

First Labour member of the Witham Urban District Council (1920), and then:
First Labour Chairman of the Council (1933-1935).

Pioneer of the Council’s new housing schemes in the 1920s, and then:
First Labour Chairman of the Council’s Housing Committee (1926-1933).

President of Maldon Divisional Labour Party.
President of the Brotherhood.
Justice of the Peace (magistrate).



From “Who’s Who in Essex”, published in 1935


This section is mostly taken from the Braintree and Witham Times (which was founded in 1929).  Sometimes I have written the item out in full, and sometimes I have summarised it. Only a selection of the reports is given here – there are many smaller ones that I have not included.

29 November 1929
Witham Urban District Council.
The report of the Housing Committee was accepted, presented by Councillor Eb Smith. Approved a plan to build 44 new houses, ‘of the parlour type’ to be sold to owner occupiers in easy payment terms, the first ten to be erected fronting Highfields Road.

31 January 1930
Labour Annual meeting was presided over by Mr George Hubbard (Mr A G Bright was indisposed). Progress had been made. V G Crittall to be President. Messrs A Franklin and Eb Smith Vice Presidents. A G Bright Chairman. A Franklin and C Rumsey Vice Chairmen. Mr G Butcher treasurer. Mr S Rice General Secretary. Messrs Palmer and Royce added to the Executive.

28 March 1930, page 3.
‘A great Institution holds its last meeting. Braintree Board of Guardians’. It includes Miss S E Vaux, Colonel E L Geere, W W Burrows, Eb Smith, T Speakman. Tributes made to the late members and officials. Matron reported there were 87 inmates, as against 208 last year.

1930, 4 July, page 4.
A summary of Eb Smith’s life before becoming  a JP in 1930.
Witham’s new Labour JP [magistrate]. Eb Smith. Born in 1871 at Sible Hedingham. Porter at Thorpe railway station. To Witham in 1900. Became signalman at Witham in 1910. Treasurer of Witham NUR since 1913. In Wesleyan church, Brotherhood etc. Sits on Military service Tribunal.

President of Maldon Divisional Labour Party in 1919, Vice- President 5 years, Hon Treasurer 5 years and now President again.

First elected to Witham Urban District Council in 1920. Now its Vice Chairman. Since 1924 has been largely responsible for the Council housing schemes under which 132 houses have been erected on Cressing Road estate, 12 are in progress, and also 20 being built on Guithavon Road for purchase by tenant owners. He was on the old Braintree Board of Guardians and is now on the Public Assistance Cttee [which replaced it].”

28 April 1932, page 3.
Discussion at UDC meeting about the rebuff from the Ministry of Health, who refused to let them build 6 more houses at Cross Road. Eb Smith said he didn’t suppose the present Government would last for ever.

2 June 1932, page 8.
Captain Evitt, Ebenezer Smith, G Ogden (surveyor) and H Crook (deputy clerk) represented Witham in a plane trip at the opening of Chelmsford aerodrome [at Broomfield], on Wednesday last week. It was a ‘10 seater air liner’. Came over Witham. 20 minute trip. They ‘all agreed that Witham looked splendid from the air’.

22 Sept 1932, col 1.
‘The “Mean” Test. Another J.P. resigns in protest. The resignation of Mrs Florence Balaam, J.P., from the duties associated with the administration of the Means Test, has been followed by that of Mr Eb Smith, J.P., of Witham, who has written signifying his decision in this respect to Mr C H F Hunt, clerk to the Braintree Area Public Assistance Committee’.

He won’t attend any more meetings while the present scale of allowances have to be ‘rigidly enforced’. While it was possible to exercise discretion, he attended, but he said ‘I will not be a party to enforcing a scale which, in my opinion, is utterly inadequate for the needs of the unemployed and those depending on them’.

He intended to send a copy of the letter to the press and to the UDC. If the latter want to replace him they may. ‘Otherwise I shall endeavour to attend the meetings of the Guardians Committee whenever possible’. Regrets this – he loves the work, and his leaving is only because of the ‘inhuman and degrading restrictions’ now imposed.

The reporter says that meanwhile, there are changes pending in the Poor Law system, arising from the suggestion that Public Assistance Committees ‘shall deal only with the sick and infirm’. At present lots of able-bodied unemployed, have to ‘seek relief because of the refusal of unemployment benefit, or because of the operation of the Means Test applied to those who have exhausted their benefit’.
[Long discussion about means test, rates of relief etc.].

15 December 1932
Brotherhood meeting. Harry Smith from Colchester addressed it. Eb Smith presided and gave a monologue, Mr Bowyer played a saxophone solo, the lesson was read by Mr Walker, and the prayer conducted by Mr Wheeler. 57 people attended.

‘Women’s Bright Hour’. Meeting of same. Mr Eb Smith gave an address and, by special request, a recitation.

Report of Witham Urban District Council meeting, 27 April 1933, when Ebenezer Smith became Chairman.
‘Commencing his 14th year as a member of the Witham Urban Council, Mr Ebenezer Smith JP, was elected chairman in succession to Capt H L Evitt, in whose favour Mr Smith withdrew last year. Mr Smith has been vice-chairman … for a
number of years’. Proposed by Mr E L Smith, with great pleasure. Seconded by Mr B O Blyth. Unanimous. Also various thanks to Capt Evitt.

Eb Smith made a speech. ‘When first elected, he felt himself to be an unwelcome intruder. Certainly no welcome was accorded him, but that was now a thing of the past. Had there been any other nomination that night, he would have withdrawn. When he first became a member of the Council he did not really think that he would ever be chairman, although he had always hoped that if he did, it would be with the unanimous support of the Council.

Frequently in the past he had been in the minority and at one time had thought that his name should have been “Ishmael” and not “Ebenezer”, because in the early days his hand was against everybody else and everybody else was against him. however, the last few years had seen a welcome change. He had been pleased to support the retiring chairman, under whom they as a body had done so well’.

W W Burrows was unanimously elected vice chair, nominated by Evitt and Manning.

5 October 1933
Mr Ebenezer Smith, chairman of the late Council, emerged at the top of the poll of this ward, to the great delight of his supporters, who, like the majority of other ratepayers, had expressed surprise when Mr Smith chose to contest the Central [probably means South] Ward. Indeed, the opinion was freely expressed in the town that Mr Smith would have considerable difficulty in retaining a seat.

31 May 1934, col 4.
Witham Methodists. Yesterday, at Witham, the stone laying ceremony, in connection with a schoolroom of the Witham Methodist Church, took place, and it is doubtful if the movement in Witham has ever had such a day since the church was erected.

‘Eleven years have elapsed since the first move was made [to build a] school-room’. Various people’s efforts. Amongst the donors ‘was Mr Joseph Rank, the miller, who sent a cheque for £50’. List of people who couldn’t come. Short service presided over by Rev James Lewis.

The inscriptions on the eight stones were:

Rev James and Mrs Lewis (laid by Rev Lewis)
Joseph Rank Esq, May 30th, 1934 (laid by Mr J Ellis, chair of London NE District)
H V Norfolk and F Powell, Circuit Stewards (laid by Mr Powell of Maldon)
Oscar Heddle Esq (laid by Mr Heddle)
Mr and Mrs G Wheeler (laid by Mr Wheeler)
Mr and Mrs W W Marskell (by Mrs Marskell)
Ebenezer Smith JP and Mabel Digby (by Mr Smith)
Mr and Mrs W Alderton (by Mrs Alderton)’

Report about Ebenezer Smith on the occasion of his retirement from the railway.

Written by Winston Alderton, 22 September 1936
Probably for the Essex County Standard
The following was typed by JG in October 2001, from the typed original in the possession of Simon Alderton, Winston’s son.

Mr Ebenezer Smith, Witham railwayman J.P., is shortly to retire from the railway after 47 years service. He will cease work in this connection at the end of the month.

Mr Smith, who has reached the age limit of 65 years, is probably the most public man in Witham for in spite of his railway duties he has contrived for many years to fulfil many public duties.

Born at Sible Hedingham he was first of all, at quite a young age, a bricklayers labourer. Later he became a lad-porter at Thorpe-le-Soken [station], with three Sundays duty out of every four and 12/- per week of 82 hours. He was a bright lad however and inside three weeks he was entrusted with shunting goods and passenger trains single handed, regulations being not quite so stringent then as at the present time.

Later he went to Parham, Suffolk, and when his wages were raised to 17/- a week he decided to get married. He and his wife lived for some time in what he described to an ‘Essex County Standard’ representative as a ‘wooden hut’.

For a short time he was at Orwell on the Felixstowe line, and then he moved to Cold Norton, remaining there for some years.

From Cold Norton he came to the Witham district, occupying Chantry Box between Witham and Hatfield Peverel, having gained promotion to signalman. Chantry Box is one of the loneliest on this line but again regulations were not so strict then as now, and often passenger and goods trains would stop specially to give Mr Smith a ride to or from his work. Mr Smith’s appointment to this box was curious for when offered it he refused but had to go all the same. His wages then were £1 per week, with 10 hours each day duty and one Sunday off in every thirteen.

Difficulty in finding a suitable house led to letters to head office and ultimately Mr Smith had to appear in London where he was severely reprimanded. ‘Yet’ said Mr Smith, ‘that interview had good effect. My extra allowance for lodgings which had been discontinued, was restored and so too was that of several other railwaymen in similar circumstances’.

It was in 1900 that Mr Smith came to live at Witham and in 1910 he was appointed to Witham Railway Station box. He has been there ever since. Always keen on ambulance work, he was for 12 years the local station division secretary, and he is the proud holder of the Railway Company’s gold medal and bar, for 20 years efficient ambulance work.

He recalls the railway disaster at Witham on Sept 5th 1905. He was at the Chantry Box at the time but on coming off duty he immediately hurried to the station and saw the wreckage lying about the station and assisted in clearing the line. Eleven people were killed when the Cromer Express left the metals.

Mr Smith’s record of public life is one that can rarely have been surpassed in the county, and many times instead of going to bed during the day in readiness for night duty, he has forgone his sleep and attended various meetings, and it was nothing for him to go anything up to 48 hours without sleep.

From 1916-18 he was a member of the Local (Military Service) Tribunal and Local Food Control, Fuel and Lighting Committees. From 1920-22 he was a member of the Braintree & Dist., War Pensions Committee. From 1922-35, he was a Voluntary Worker for the London Area War Pensions Committee. From 1920-36 he was a Member of the Witham Urban District Council.

For many years Mr Smith has been an active member of the Labour Party and over his political sympathies he has never made any secret, being frequently seen on Labour platforms. He has been president of the Maldon Divisional Labour Party and is at present vice-president. In addition he has held numerous offices in connection with the local Labour Party.

He has, for a number of years and, in fact since its formation, been actively associated with the Witham United Brotherhood and has spoken at Brotherhood meetings all over the county. He is the present Correspondence Secretary of the local movement.

As a local preacher too, Mr Smith is widely known and respected and in this and other connections the best description that can be applied to him is that of a utility man, for, even at the last moment he is always ready to step into the shoes of a speaker or preacher who has been prevented from attending as arranged. His services on behalf of the local Methodist (formerly Wesleyan) Church will not readily be forgotten.

One of Mr Smith’s ambitions is to become a member of the Essex County Council. His attempt in December 1935 in the Coggeshall Division failed by the narrow majority of 13, the successful candidate being Mr Cyril Deal.

Mr Smith plans to continue to lead an active life. Both he and Mrs Smith happily enjoy good health and their numerous friends and acquaintances will wish them long life and happiness.

Always a champion of the poor and needy, Mr Smith’s efforts on their behalf will not readily be forgotten. ‘I remember’ he said ‘my own difficulties and my own housing problems and this knowledge spurs me on to do my very best in these matters’.

27 April 1933, page 6, cols 1-2
Election as Chairman of Witham Urban District Council
‘Commencing his 14th year as a member of the Witham Urban Council, Mr Ebenezer Smith JP, was elected chairman in succession to Capt H L Evitt, in whose favour Mr Smith withdrew last year. Mr Smith has been vice-chairman … for a number of years’. Proposed by Mr E L Smith, with great pleasure. Seconded by Mr B O Blyth. Unanimous. Also various thanks to Capt Evitt.

Eb Smith speech. ‘When first elected he felt himself to be an unwelcome intruder. Certainly no welcome was accorded him, but that was now a thing of the past. Had there been any other nomination that night, he would have withdrawn. When he first became a member of the Council he did not really think that he would ever be chairman, although he had always hoped that if he did, it would be with the unanimous support of the Council.

Frequently in the past he had been in the minority and at one time had thought that his name should have been “Ishmael” and not “Ebenezer”, because in the early days his hand was against everybody else and everybody else was against him. however, the last few years had seen a welcome change. He had been pleased to support he retiring chairman, under whom they as a body had done so well’.

W W Burrows was unanimously elected vice chair, nominated by Messrs Evitt and Manning.

28 September 1933, page 2
[Probably on the occasion of new larger Council.]
Mr Eb Smith responded on behalf of the Council and remarked that as the oldest member of the Council he was often held responsible for the misdeeds of the past. (Laughter). But the work had been interesting and had been a great education to him. The first time he stood for the Council he missed election by five votes and on the second occasion succeeded by only seven votes. The first chairman under whom he sat only endured him for one year and then resigned as apparently he (Mr Smith) was unruly – and that gentleman had been associated with the Council for over 50 years.

Since then he (Mr Smith) had sat under four chairmen and he thought he could safely say that his most pleasant experiences had been obtained under the chairmanship of Capt. Evitt. (Hear, hear). He sincerely regretted that Capt Evitt had resigned from the Witham authority, especially at this particular juncture when they were faced with situations more difficult than ever before. It would have been a good thing if all the members had stood again (Hear, hear)

The resignation of Miss Pattisson would also be received with regret. Miss Pattisson had been of material assistance to him during the development of the Council’s housing schemes, which had proved very successful; in fact, he thought the Guithavon scheme was one of the best of its kind in the country (Hear hear). He (Mr Smith) was glad they had been able to progress so satisfactorily, because the future held great difficulties, particularly during the first twelve months of the new Council.

Personally, he was not shrinking from the tasks confronting them, and, as in the past, he would endeavour to do his best from day to day. (Applause). However, they looked into the future with a certain amount of anxiety, possibly because many of their problems would have to be dealt with by a newly-constituted personnel of the Council.

He personally would have welcomed Capt Evitt at their deliberations – providing, of course, he (Mr Smith) was successful in seeking re-election – because Capt Evitt was a wise counsellor, one who exercised sound judgement. (Applause). … He personally had been a member of the Council for more than 13 years, and four years ago was on the verge of resigning, but came to the conclusion eventually that there was much useful work to be done … … [more people speaking]
Ebenezer Smith. Have represented you since 1920. Held several important offices including Chairmanship of Council. ‘Knowledge and experience’. ‘As a Labour representative I have given special attention to the provision of houses for the working classes’. Taken full share in what UDC has done to benefit the town.

5 October 1933, page 2, column 4 (after the incorporation of Silver End and Rivenhall into Witham)
‘The Greater Witham. Result of the poll for the new Urban Council’. Held on Saturday. Six retiring members who offered themselves were all returned .

The election will go down in history as one which furnished several surprises. The first came with the figures for Central [probably means South] Ward, so at this early stage the crowd, which, probably because of the rather early hour, was rather numerically small, was given some inkling as to what to expect from the succeeding decisions. Mr Ebenezer Smith, chairman of the late Council, emerged at the top of the poll of this ward, to the great delight of his supporters, who, like the majority of other ratepayers, had expressed surprise when Mr Smith chose to contest the Central [probably means South] Ward. Indeed, the opinion was freely expressed in the town that Mr Smith would have considerable difficulty in retaining a seat.

Witham people are now asking what will happen when the 15 councillors, together with the officials and the Press, hold their first meeting in the present Council Chamber, where the accommodation is at the moment anything but adequate.

29 March 1934 [wrong date or page] page 8.
‘Railwaymen’s Sunday’ was observed at the Brotherhood. Mr A E Bright (porter) presided. Address by Mr Eb Smith (signalman). Mr J Eggett (goods foreman) offered a prayer. Mr J Birch, [sic] porter, read lesson. Mr R B Stoakley, station master of Kelvedon ‘rendered two excellent solos’. Good attendance.

19 April 1934, page 2.
‘Witham Council Chairman Re-elected. Members agree not to swop horses while “crossing the stream”. “A happy decision” says Mr Eb Smith’.

Annual meeting. ‘Col Geere proposed Mr Burrows for the chairmanship. In Mr Eb Smith, he said, they had had an excellent chairman, a good, clean-living man and one who had no “fish to fry”, but now the Council’s area was enlarged it had become necessary to have a man, in these commercial days, who had had business training’.

Mr Eb Smith had been excellent and Col G had nothing against his ability. Esmond L Smith seconded. Said Eb Smith had ‘undoubted abilities’. ‘But Mr Burrows had been the Council’s vice-chairman and had the next longest service as a member of the Council’. Said Mr B very able. Before the motion put, Mr Burrows said did not desire to be chair. Had said so before. ‘So far as he personally was concerned, the members of the Council were quite free to continue with their old chairman, Mr Eb Smith, if they so wished.

Mr Cuthbe proposed the re-election of Eb Smith. It was ‘Entirely false’ to say only successful businessmen would do. ‘It had, in fact, been proved on many occasions that ordinary working men who had no knowledge of what were commonly known as business affairs, were able to satisfactorily conduct such public affairs …’ Wrong to change now. Mr Mott seconded. Discussion. Eb Smith therefore elected.   Thanked members, especially Mr Burrows. He hadn’t discussed it before. Did not wish to remain but felt continuity was necessary ‘He agreed that he was a man who had a will of his own, but even when, in the past, they had clashed, there had been no reason to doubt that their desire had been something for the benefit of the town – they had always adhered to the principles they thought best.

Mr Manning proposed and sec for vice-chair. A business man. Mr Cuthbe proposed Mr Burrows. Mr B declined. So Mr Manning elected.

19 April 1934, page 2
Suggestions that the Witham Council was run by the local Brotherhood were made at a meeting of the urban authority on Monday night. The matter arose when the chairman (Mr Eb Smith) invited the members to follow the usual custom and to attend the Brotherhood gathering on the Sunday immediately following the annual meeting of the Council – next Sunday.

Arrangements had been made for the Vicar of the parish to give the address on this occasion, and although duty would prevent him from attending, he hoped as many members of the Council as possible would be present to take part in the service. Mr. Esmond L. Smith was to be the soloist, and Mr. Manning would
also take part.

The Church Lads’ Brigade had promised to attend and Mr. Ingram had asked if they should take any part. The conduct of that special service had previously been in the hands of the members of the Council, but possibly the Church Lads’ Brigade could participate as the members were budding citizens.
Mr. Naylor said that surely a Council consisting of 15 members could run a Brotherhood service for one afternoon ‑ surely they had talent enough for that purpose. He did not know why the Vicar should have been asked, or why the Church Lads’ Brigade were asked either.

Col. E. L. Geere. We are all wrong in discussing this matter in public. Politics should not enter into the question. The Chairman: There are no politics in the matter at all. Mr. Rowles: Before discussing the matter we should have gone into committee. The Chairman: I am sure the Press will exercise their discretion.

Mr. E. L. Smith: Why we can’t settle this matter without all this discussion, I fail to see. Mr. Manning: The whole question seems to hinge on the Church Lads’ Brigade. I suggest we keep the service in the hands of the Council, as in former years. Mr. Naylor: Perhaps we could appoint the Vicar as hon. chaplain to the Council .(Laughter.)

Mr. Richards said the new Vicar would have no axes to grind. The chairman was one of the “leading lights” in the Brotherhood and if he had invited the Vicar ‑ “well and good.” The chairman said that on this occasion he was asked to invite the Vicar to attend and give an address.

Mr. Burrows added that it was fitting that they should ask the Vicar. He would no doubt give an excellent address. So far as the Church Lads’ Brigade was concerned they had also invited the Crittall Works Band, and they hoped to have “a full house.”
Some discussion ensued on the question of the debate being reported in the Press, and Mr. Cuthbe moved that no request to keep the discussion out of the newspapers be made to the reporters. It was ridiculous to attempt to suppress every little discussion they had ‑ theirs was a public body.

The Chairman: We don’t want to do anything which will make things difficult either for us or for the Vicar. I take it that in my absence Mr. Burrows will preside, and perhaps Col. Geere will read the lesson. Col. Geere: I won’t attend to read the lesson – I hear this Council is run by the Brotherhood. Mr. Rowles also declined an invitation to read the lesson. The Chairman: I should have thought you would have supported the Council in this matter. Will you read the lesson, Mr. Crook ? Mr. Crook (the deputy-clerk): I have read it on several occasions, but I really think a member of the Council should.

Eventually Mr. Cuthbe was prevailed upon to perform this part of the service. “Yes, I will,” he said. “I am not ashamed to stand up and be seen at the Brotherhood.”

31 January 1935, page 2
Chairman (Ebenezer Smith) pleased with new offices. Business all in one building. ‘He felt particularly proud of the work which had been done during his tenure of office resulting in the new swimming pool, the new cemetery and now, the new Council offices. Tribute to Surveyor.

7 March 1935, page 1
Advert. ‘Maldon Divisional Labour Party. PEACE. Great Public Meeting. Co-operative Hall, Braintree. Saturday next, March 9th. Commence 7 p.m. Admission Free. Speakers Rt Hon W Wedgewood Benn, DSO, DFC, ex secretary of State for India and Mr William F Toynbee, prospective Labour Candidate. Chairman Councillor Eb Smith, JP. SOCIALISM MEANS PEACE, PROGRESS AND SECURITY’.

28 March 1935, page 7
Obituary of Thomas Cullen, seed merchant, and account of retirement of Ebenezer Smith from chairmanship of Witham UDC.

Also discussion of Jubilee celebrations and whether or not they should be supported from the rates (yes) and of resolution criticising national defence.

20 June 1935, page 6, col 4. Retirement of Ebenezer Smith as chairman of council
Large number of delegates and members of local Labour Parties, Women’s sections, Co-op Guilds, Trade Unions and other organisations at the Co-op Hall on Saturday for meeting of General Committee of Maldon Divisional Labour Party.

Preceded by pleasing event. Gift was a ‘handsome walnut clock with Westminster chimes’. Et al. Subscribed for by 300 people. Sang ‘For he’s a jolly good fellow’, presentation to Mr and Mrs Eb Smith. Head and shoulders photo [bit fatter in the face than earlier ones]. D J Maidment, divisional chairman, present. Also W F Toynbee, Labour candidate, K Cuthbe, party secretary, and Mr P Astins, County Councillor. Mrs Mabbs wrote…

17 December 1936
National Union of Railwaymen presentation to Mr Ebenezer Smith. At their HQ at the White Horse. He said conditions were much better than when he first started on railways, largely due to efforts of NUR.

6 May 1937, p.2
‘29th annual conference of Essex and Suffolk Brotherhood and Sisterhood Federation’. Ebenezer Smith, JP, CC, of Witham, president elect of Brotherhood. Honour. Long report. Says interdenominational.

Chelmsford Chronicle
, 26 April 1946, death of Ebenezer Smith

By the death of Mr. Ebenezer  Smith, J.P., Witham has lost one of her best-known residents. Mr. Smith, who was in his 75th year, died at Black Notley Hospital Good Friday. He leaves a widow, son (Mr. Stanley Smith), and daughter (Mrs. Betts).

Mr. Smith, who was born at Sible Hedingham, spent nearly 50 years in the service of the old Great Eastern Railway and L.N.E.R. Co., starting as a porter at Thorpe-le-Soken in 1889. and becoming signalman in Witham for 26 years, retiring in 1936.

A great part of his life was spent in public service. In the First World war he was a member of the Local (Military Service) Tribunal, and Food, Fuel and Lighting Committees, and became a member of the Braintree and District War Pensions Committee. For 26 years, from 1920. he was a member of the Witham Urban Council, and was chairman 1933-34.

For a period he was a member of the Braintree Board of Guardians. In 1930 he was appointed a Justice of the Peace. A few years later he was elected to the Essex County Council, retiring only last March. He was president of the Witham Hospital Carnival, 1933-34, and was appointed a life governor of Colchester Hospital.

Mr. Smith was an active member of the Labour Party, speaking at gatherings in many parts of Essex, and was for some time president of the Maldon Divisional Labour Party.

Keenly interested in the Brotherhood movement, he frequently presided at the Witham gatherings, and was a past president of the Essex and Suffolk Brotherhood Federation. He was also a tireless worker for the Methodist Church, and his services as a lay preacher were in demand. Mr. and Mrs. Smith celebrated their golden wedding in July, 1944.

Ebenezer Close
A new road on the Church Street housing site is to be named “Ebenezer Close” in memory of the late Mr. Ebenezer Smith, J.P., a former chairman.”


The Cage

The Cage at Witham

The cage was a small lockup on the corner of Newland Street and Mill Lane, where wayward residents could be restrained for short periods. I’m not aware of any surviving photos. This one shows where it used to be.

It would have been in the centre of this photo, to the left of the yellow brick building, which is now 132 Newland Street, and which in many old photos was the Globe Inn. It was Frank’s Café most of the 1970s, A J M Glass’s in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s, and is now Past Times. The photo was taken in 1975 when, as you see, it was Mill Lane Tropicals.

The cage was demolished in the 1920s, being old and unused, and in a space needed for the widening of the Mill Lane corner.

The rest of this account will consist of quotations  from old documents. Any comments that I’ve added myself, are in square brackets . Coloured text shows different parts of the document.

​Information, 1641
The Information of Jane Earle widdowe, taken upon Oath before Sir Beniamin Ayloffe, Barronet, Sir Thomas Wiseman, knight, and Henry Nevill, Esq. This 27th day of November. Anno Domini 1641.
“Shee saith that on Sunday was sennight shee was laid on her Bed, shee being then weary of a Jorney haveing come on Foot Fifteen miles the day before, and about three of the Clocke in the afternoon Robert Garrard, Philomen Pledger, John Freborne and Nathaniell Garrard, came to her house, and knocked at her doore, wheareupon shee arose from her Bed, and let them in, and they requiring a reason why shee was absent from Church, shee tould them that shee came Fifteen Miles the day before, and was very weary and Sicke, yet they not being satisfied, but by force carried her to the Cage, wheare they imprisoned her about a quarter, or halfe an hower.”
Signed:                         Signed:
Benj.Ayloffe                Tho.Wyseman

(Essex Record Office. Epiphany 1641/2. Q/SBa 2/45)

Recognisance, 1641/2
27 Nov. Jane Earle widow; to indict Rob.Garrard, Philomen Pledger, John Freeborne, and Nath’l Garrard for assaulting her in her own house and violently carrying her into the cage [all of Witham].
Essex Record Office. Epiphany 1641/2  Calendar of Quarter Sessions. Q/SR 315/76.)

: Jane Earle also made several appearances in the Church courts – one of them was because she was “commonly reputed and taken to be a woman of very rude behaviour”.
The four Witham men were probably parish officers.
The three distinguished men at the beginning, Ayloffe, Wiseman and Nevill, were local magistrates.]

Presentation against the inhabitants of Witham, 1669. [translated from Latin]
“Catasta (in English the Cage) in Witham, within the precincts of this lete, is exceedingly ruined so that it is a sin against the law, so that it is not possible to make it secure. Therefore it is ordered that the inhabitants of Witham shall mend and repair those same Catastam before the next first of May, under pain of forfeiting to the Lord five pounds.”
(Essex Record Office, 1669 Manor Court Roll for manor of Newland , ERO D/DBw M28)

Tithe map and award, 1839
The site which is now 132 Newland Street comprised four  plots on the Tithe Map, as shown in the table: they are also shown on my (very) rough map. The cage was plot 137A. This confirms its location as suggested by other documents, on the corner of Newland Street and Mill Lane.

No. Owner Occupier Description Size
137 Rolfe, Edward Self The Globe PH 4 roods
137a Witham Parish Officers Unoccupied The cage and yard 2 roods
138 Pattisson, Jacob Howell William Goldsmith Garden 28 roods
138a Rolfe, Edward John Brown and 2 others Tenements 6 roods

(Essex Record Office D/CT 405 and 405A)

Witham rate and vestry meetings book, 1851
21 April 1851.
‘The subject of the Old Cage and the ground whereon it stands was brought before the meeting and it was resolved that the Churchwardens be requested to sell the Cage and the ground whereon it stands and to hand over the purchase money to the Engine House Committee”
22 September 1851
Extracts from accounts ‘for the repair of engines, buckets, etc’
Dr: Mr Cook’s Sale Bill £2 11s 0d
Cr: ‘By sale of cage by auction by Jno Cook to C Douglas esq, £30.’
(part of Essex Record Office Acc A5605)

An Essay about Witham, by someone who first came in 1883
“Sometimes you might find one in the Village Cage . The people in Witham are aware of the fact that such a one still stands in Witham. It is a building about 10 ft square, timber built and brick nogged, with slated roof, it consisted of two compartments, with a ring bolt let in the floor, where the prisoner was chained to. It fell into disuse at the passing of Sir Robert Peel Police Act nearly a century ago [1829?], and was rented by Mr Thomas Bailey at 2£ per annum, he used it as a general store, and although patched up is still to be seen opposite the Gas Works” (Essex Record Office T/P 116/83)
[the Gas Works was on the other [south] corner of Mill Lane and Newland Street; the site is now the Mill Lane car park].

Witham Urban District Council, minutes, 1921
31 October 1921, page 163
Mr H Lawrence offered to the Council for purchase, ‘the Historic Drunkard’s Cage now standing on his premises’. Clerk to ask price etc.
2 November 1921, page 168
Mr H Lawrence said he required £30 for the Cage. Clerk to thank him and say could not at present purchase it. “Mr E Smith proposed and Mr E Pelly seconded that the Clerk inform the Antiquarian Society of the offer now made to the Council, and should the Society be desirous of the Cage remaining in the Town the Council were willing that same should be placed in the Recreation Ground”.
[The proposers were Councillors Ebenezer Smith, newly elected the previous year, and Edmund Pelly of Witham Lodge]
19 December 1921
The Surveyor had had a letter from Society for Protection of Ancient Buildings re the Cage [no details]

From an account of Witham for  the Women’s Institute  Essay Competition, 1935
“Other Ancient Landmarks which have disappeared are the Tithe Barn, the pound, and the ‘lock-up’. …. Just at the bottom of Newland Street stood the lock-up for the temporary accommodation of local drunkards. It had a high gate and wooden fence. When the corner of Mill Lane was widened it was removed”. (Essex Record Office T/P 133/1)

 Witham Urban District Council in Essex Weekly News, 1937
29 October 1937  “WORTHY OF PRESERVATION. – The Town and Country Planning Committee of the County Council are to be informed that the following buildings are worthy of preservation. The Old Pound, Newland Street: properties at Chipping Hill and facing the Parish Church: timbered properties in Bridge Street, owned by Mr W J Marshall; and Blue Posts House, Newland Street.” (Essex Weekly News, 29 October, 1937)
[The Pound was a place for keeping stray animals, and Witham’s Pound was near the top of Collingwood Road, not in Newland Street (see below). So we don’t know whether the writer meant the Pound or whether they really meant the Cage]

Old Days in Witham, no date, probably written about 1930
The old lock-up was at the corner of Mill Lane, part of the property known  as the Globe Inn, now, I believe, a paper shop. The Globe Inn had as landlord for many years a Mr Bailey, and I believe his son is still living in Braintree. I have been in this lock-up many times as a boy (not as a prisoner). It was then known as the Cage, and I have heard my grandfather state that he had seen people in the stocks which were at the  corner of Mill Lane opposite the Gas House, and quite close to the Cage.
(Essex Record Office, Acc 10510, page 2. No date but perhaps about 1930, because said to be written about 50 years after the workhouse closed, which was in about 1880. This the only reference that I [JG] found to the Stocks being near the Cage -see below for Stocks)

I’ll finish by briefly noting some of the other punitive structures in Witham.

The Pounds in general

The Pound of the Manor of Blunts Hall, 1570
(for keeping stray animals)
The jury present that the servants of James Stamford have broken the Lord’s pound and taken their cattle away.
(ERO T/B 71/1, p.60)

The Pound of the Manor of Newland
(for keeping stray animals)
1663 the Pound is out of repair. (ERO D/DBw M28)
1785  to be sold with the Manor of Newland, to which it belonged. (ERO SC B462)
c.1930s. Was at the corner opposite the Market Place (the Market Place is now the site of Labour Hall). Taken away at the end of the 19th century (ERO T/P 133/1,19,21).
It was an enclosure where J B Slythe’s was (now a site for selling white vans, near the station) (ERO Acc 10510, p.39).
See also the end paper and page 70 of “Making a Living”.
[There are also a number of references to the Pound Cottage, maybe next to the Pound, which I have not noted.]

Stocks in general
I [JG] have seen a postcard of Stocks claiming to be at Witham, and I believe there is another picture in the George P.H. But there is no information about where exactly they were, or if indeed they really were in Witham. If anyone comes up with more detail, that would be interesting. 

Stocks in the manor of Chipping, 1588
It is presented that all the inhabitants of Chipping Witham shall repair the stocks before the feast of Pentecost, on pain of 40 shillings.
(ERO D/DBw M26)

Stocks in the manors of Chipping and Newland, 1596
It was ordered “that any person who henceforth breaks any person’s hedge within this Leet against the will of the owner shall forfeit to the Lord 12d. for each offence or else to be placed in the stocks for the space of one hour”.
(ERO T/B 1/1, page 105)

Stocks in the manors of Chipping and Newland, 
From “Old Days in Witham”, also quoted above.
No date for
stocks, but written c.1930
I have heard my grandfather state that he had seen people in the stocks which were at the  corner of Mill Lane opposite the Gas House, and quite close to the Cage.
(Essex Record Office, Acc 10510, page 2. No date but perhaps about 1930, because said to be written about 50 years after the workhouse closed, which was in about 1880. This the only reference I [JG] found to the Stocks being near the Cage.)


The Whipping Post

The Whipping Post in Newland Street, 1629
A young boy tied red Irish crosses to it during a dispute with Irish soldiers on St Patrick’s Day.
(G E Aylmer, St Patrick’s Day 1629, in Witham Essex, Past and Present, 1973, p.92)

Witham Carnival in the 1930s

This was written for me in 2001 by Mrs Peggy Blake (nee Butcher).

‘Notting Hill’, it wasn’t, but the effort, enthusiasm and hard work of everyone made up for any modern glitter ! Mums sewed miles of crepe paper into frilly dresses – “Don’t sit down until after the judging dear”.

There was usually a Ghandhi – one sheet and a pair of underpants took no sewing. Grown men in prams wearing bonnets and sucking dummies were always evident – and at any age used to make me cringe !

Crittall’s Band always stood out in their bright orange and saxe blue uniforms – a mixture I hated – but then the firm only made metal windows ! It was a good band, though.

The tradesmen and their workers used to go to a lot of trouble dressing their floats (and themselves), bowers and trails of paper roses etc – all had to be made. Whatever the hospitals gained from the carnivals, the crepe paper industry must have been laughing too !

Notes by JG:-
Money collected at the carnival went to support hospitals, which were all privately funded.
The first Witham Carnival was in 1929. Peggy and her friends were photographed in 1936 – see photos M1122 to M1128.
A search for Carnival will show that they have all been a popular subject for photography.


Witham schools c.1700-1815

Witham schools c.1700-1815

Includes information from David Tomlinson and Janet Gyford, February 2001

Note that JG has only searched the Ipswich Journal up to 1764 and the Chelmsford Chronicle 1764-September 1784, and 1814.

Reference numbers are ERO (Essex Record Office) unless otherwise stated.

E.R.O. D/DBw M82, is an abstract of the court rolls and books of the manors of Witham and Newland. The number and description could help to identify more details.

(1) Private schools c.1700-1815 

Name; first name first First year that school was known Info from David Tomlinson, obtained from adverts in Ipswich Journal and Chelmsford Chronicle Further info from Janet Gyford


Witham School ? n.d. – Photograph of drawing of ‘Witham School’ (T/P 339/1/16). I have had difficulty placing this. From its appearance it seems most like the building that used to be known as the Wilderness (52-54 Newland Street), demolished in the 1960s. I suppose it could possibly have been James Dunn’s before he moved to Witham Place.
William Allen 1759 There were two or more William Allens: I have put a selection of references to all of them. It looks as if the teaching might have come after the bankruptcy ? See also Thomas Allen.

1716-1776 In various years a WA witnessed apprenticeship indentures, especially from the 1750s to 1770s (D/P 30/14/1).

1717-19: property occupied by a WA (no. 51) (now site of 53-55 Newland Street) (D/DBw M82, M72).

1732: Churchwarden (D/P 30/14/1).

1738: Will of William Allen elder; sons Thomas and William (D/ACR 15/53).

1738-40: William Allen (junior?) occupied and bought property (no. 51 as above) (D/DBw M82).

1742: 11 windows in Window Tax (D/Z 3).

1743: bought properties at Chipping Hill. (properties 131, 132, 139, 146) (20-22 and 26-30 Chipping Hill, 1-5 Church Street, sites of 54-56 Church Street) (D/DBw M82).

1747: Churchwarden (D/P 30/14/1).

1748: Elizabeth Taverner, widow of Dr James Taverner (founder of Witham Spa) left WA woollen draper a suit of mourning (D/ACR 15/286).

1753: William Allen, shopkeeper and chapman, was bankrupt (Ipswich Journal 7 April 1753, D/DDw T63).

1753: Assignees sold WA’s properties as above (properties 51, 131, 132, 139, 146) (D/DBw M82).

1759: ‘Wanted immediately (as an usher) at Witham School in Essex, a sober, regular person, that can write the hands well, and understands accounts. Such a person will meet with suitable encouragement from Mr William Allen of Witham aforesaid’ (Ipswich Journal, 20 October 1759, p.4).

1762 – 1776 (approx): A WA occupied property (property no.102; now site of 20 Newland Street) (D/DBw M82).

1763: Ref to Mr Allen, of Witham, organist and dancing master, in Colchester as mentioned by DT, and also at ‘Mr Ward’s’ at Chipping Hill in Witham (Ipswich Journal 4 and 18 June) (could be Thomas or William Allen, q.v.; Arthur Brown Witham in the Eighteenth Century, page 15, said it was William but I haven’t found proof which one yet).

1782: WA younger a tailor (D/DBw M44).

1783: William Allen senior, gentleman, died. Another WA was his nephew. Newspaper refers to his scholarship but not to any teaching (D/DQo 32; Chelmsford Chronicle, 31 October 1783, 2 April 1784).

Mrs ? Ward 1760s 1760s (early): Had a school on Chipping Hill.

(there were other Wards in Witham but mostly a bit early or late for this)

Mrs Burnett 1761 1761 (Jan) – 1767 (Feb): Boarding school for young ladies.

Wife of the Independent minister in Witham. School closed as her husband was moving to another pastorate.

1768 (May): Revd John Caldow took Mrs Burnett’s house

1752-67: Revd. John Burnett pastor of Congregational church (D/NC 3/1).
Anne Aylmer and Robert Aylmer, 1762 1762 (Jan) – ?: boarding school for young ladies. Husband, Robert; peripatetic dancing master.

1779: they lived in Colchester.

1780 (July): Anne died.

All this relates to Robert. Information marked with an asterisk is from various letters from John Butt.

c.1747-1760: subscriber to local composers i.e. Joseph Gibbs Opus I (c.1747), Opus II (1777), Joseph Eyre (c.1760), John Carr of Boxford ‘The Grove’ (1760).*

1754: Brabazon Aylmer of Ulting left estate to wife and then to son of Rev Robert A vicar of Camberwell (Morant).*

1755: RA of St Peters Colchester and another bound RA widower (37) married Ann Smith (36) of Earls Colne in marriage bond.*

1757: A Mr Aylmer has taken over Colchester School of Mr Wood of Ipswich (Mondays) (Ipswich Journal 2 and 9 April).*

1761: Advert for opening Mr and Mrs Aylmer’s school (earlier than the one mentioned by DT) (Ipswich Journal 26 December 1761, page 3).

1765 approx: Robert occupied property (no. 12) (probably High House, 5 Newland Street, new house then (now Chinese restaurant) (D/DBw M82).

c.1764 – c.1772 Various references to ‘Mr Aylmer’s ball’. At Witham for his young ladies and at Dedham for his young gentlemen and ladies’ (e.g. Chelmsford Chronicle 13 September 1765). In or before 1772 it began to be just at Dedham though Witham was given as his address (e.g. Chelmsford Chronicle 4 September 1772). Later he had one at Colchester too (e.g. Chelmsford Chronicle 29 August 1777).

1797: Robert previously occupied land (no. 155, a close in Mill Lane) (D/DBw M39).

Robert Aylmer 1762 See Anne Aylmer. See Anne Aylmer.
Thomas Allen 1763 or 1775? 1763 (June) a Mr Allen opened a dancing school in Colchester – described as organist of Witham – is this the same as Thomas ? For three years, had been assistant to Revd John Caldow. Before that, occasionally assisted Revd Charles Case.

Taught drawing at Mr Aylmer’s school for five years.

1775 (Dec): took over Red Lion and opened school.

1784 (June): school taken over by Revd Alex Murray.

More than one Thomas. See also William Allen.

1738-40: TA elder was brother of William and son of William the elder and Rachel (D/ACR 15/53).

1740: Husband of Elizabeth who was left property (no. 35; now 66 Newland Street) (D/DBw M82).

1740: Occupied Corner House and waste adjoining (properties 171, 172, 178; now site of 64 Newland Street) (D/DBw M82).

1742: Had 18 windows in Window Tax (D/Z 3).

1743: witnessed will of John Bourne (D/ACR 15/189).

1746, 1748, 1750: witnessed apprenticeship indentures (D/P 20/14/1).

1751: a TA witnessed the will of Thomas Sandford (with signature) (D/ACW 30/28).

1763: Ref to Mr Allen, of Witham, organist and dancing master, in Colchester as mentioned by DT, and also at ‘Mr Ward’s’ at Chipping Hill in Witham (Ipswich Journal 4 and 18 June) (could be Thomas or William Allen, q.v.; Arthur Brown Witham in the Eighteenth Century, page 15, said it was William but I haven’t found proof which one yet).

1775 (April) TA to open school (earlier than DT’s ref). Same info as Dec but doesn’t mention Red Lion (Chelmsford Chronicle 14 April 1775).

1776: Advertised for an assistant in his school (Chelmsford Chronicle 6 September 1776).

1777: Had moved from his house opposite the George inn to more commoddious one lately occupied by Mrs Walman (Chelmsford Chronicle 24 October 1777). The old one was probably the previous Red Lion (site of 68 Newland Street). The new one was probably part of Medina House (site of 80-84 Newland Street).

1778: Advert that TA had engaged a gentleman from London to ‘teach Latin and French grammatically’ (Chelmsford Chronicle 18 December 1778).

1779: TA advertised for a person to teach Latin and arithmetic at his school ‘in the Country’ (Chelmsford Chronicle 16 April 1779).

1783: Ref to TA elder as late brother, deceased, of William Allen of Witham, and TA younger as son of TA elder; latter was left books by WA (D/DQo 32).

1786: Previously occupied a piece of garden (D/DO T739).

1787: Previously occupied a property that was previously called Hart Yard; was occupied by Alexander Murray after him (probably part of Medina House as above) (D/DO T739).

1793 approx: bookseller (Universal British Directory).

1794: occupied premises (probably next to 117 Newland Street) (deeds of property owned by Co-op: I saw these privately but they may be in Colchester RO now).

1814: will of TA ‘clerk to the justices of Witham Division, late Witham, now Boreham’ (D/AER 36/110).

Mr Ward 1763 1763: Ref to Mr Allen, of Witham, organist and dancing master, in Colchester as mentioned by DT, and also at ‘Mr Ward’s’ at Chipping Hill in Witham (Ipswich Journal 4 and 18 June)* (could be Thomas or William Allen, q.v.; Arthur Brown Witham in the Eighteenth Century, page 15, said it was William but I haven’t found proof which one yet)

(there were other Wards in Witham but mostly a bit early or late for this)

Revd John Caldow 1768 1768 (Jan) – 1778 (Dec): boarding school for young gentleman.

1768 (May): took Mrs Burnett’s house. Employed assistants.

1778: took a partner.

Quite a big school (1768: not more than 20 boarders, quite a large number in those days).

1779 (June) – 1790: Mr H Thompson took over Revd John Caldow’s school.

1782: taught Latin and Greek in Mr Till’s school at Rainham (Till was described as from Witham – was he Caldow’s partner ?).

1767: School to be opened at Witham; details. Rev. John Caldow had previously been usher to the Grammar School at Lavenham for 8½ years. His ad. said ‘Witham is a pleasant and healthy town, where are convenient houses for young gentlemen to board in’ (Chelmsford Chronicle 12 June 1767; i.e. before DT’s reference).

c.1768: John Crosier attended ‘Caldow’s Academy at Witham’ for a year, after 5 years at Felsted (Arthur Brown Essex People, p.2).

1782: School to be opened at Rainham by John Till from Witham. For his character consult Rev Caldow. Latin and Greek will be taught by Revd. Caldow if required (Chelmsford Chronicle 11January 1782).

Robert Dallinger 1768 1766: RD witnessed will of Abraham Lake (D/ACR 17/32).

1768: RD advertised his services as a land surveyor and mathematician. Also ‘teaches astronomy, navigation, dialling, mensuration, gauging, and all other parts of the mathematics’ (Chelmsford Chronicle, 8, 15, 22 April, 6 May, 10 June 1768).

1769: RD wrote an article about the comet for the Chronicle (Chelmsford Chronicle 8 September 1769).

1770: new advert, on death of Timothy Skinner, surveyor (also of Witham). In addition to surveying, RD teaches ‘navigation, mensuration, gauging and all other parts of the mathematics according to the latest improvements’ )Chelmsford Chronicle 20 July 1770).

1771: new advert again (Chelmsford Chronicle 15 November 1771).

1772: RD witnessed will of Robert Goslin (D/ACR 17/338)

1774: RD prepared map of Jacob Pattisson’s land in Witham (T/M 52).

For more about Dallinger see A.S.Mason, Essex on the Map.

Revd Charles Case 1771 1771 (March): to open school; dissenting minister at Witham.

1771-1773?: school ran

1767-82: Pastor of Congregational church. Died 1782 (D/NC 3/1; Chelmsford Chronicle 14 June 1782)

1772: school advertised as ‘Protestant dissenting boarding school’ (Chelmsford Chronicle 19 June, 3 July 1772).

1772: Book by CC advertised: ‘Objections against human authority in religion’. CC a signatory to a notice calling a meeting of Protestant Dissenting ministers about ‘relief in the matter of subscription’ (Chelmsford Chronicle 4 December 1772).

?date: Sermon by CC in ERO library.

Mrs Jane Aldridge 1775 1775 (Feb) – 1779 (July): from Harwich. 1779 Sale of Mrs A’s furniture (doesn’t say she had died) (Chelmsford Chronicle 5 November 1779).
John Sly 1776 Writing master and accountant.

1776, March: opened school – did it last long? For the school he had built a ‘spacious room’ and several commodious and genteel lodging rooms for boarders.

Had taught for 23 years.

1766: A Mr Sly occupied premises (not sure where) (D/DE T75).

1770: JS occupied property 91 (now site of 32 Newland Street) (D/DBw M82).

1771: John Sly of Stoke by Nayland took over Witham business of Samuel Rogers, bookseller, bookbinder and stationer’. J.S. had been ‘elected master of the Free School at Witham’, and assured care of children (Chelmsford Chronicle 11 October 1771).

1774: JS voted Whig. Had freehold in Felsted, was resident in Witham (Poll book).

1775: Advert about lodging rooms for boarders (earlier than DT’s ref and not mentioning the spacious room) (Chelmsford Chronicle 21 April 1775).

Miss Love 1779 1779 (April) – 1780? 1780: A Hannah Maria Love had purchased property in Maldon Road (later site of Trafalgar Square, now site of roundabout to Tesco). Daughter of Stephen and Mary Love (Stephen probably of Watford so maybe Hannah didn’t live in Witham either) (D/DBw M39 re property 39; D/DC 32/756).

1780: Miss L. had engaged an assistant. Children at the school are taught embroidery ‘after the manner of the late celebrated Mrs Wright’ (Chelmsford Chronicle 7 January 1780).

1781: Advert for Miss Love’s school (later than DT’s) (Chelmsford Chronicle 29 December 1780).

1784: Miss L had occupied part of building before Miss Dyer (probably part of Medina House, site of 80-84 Newland Street, next to the part occupied by Alexander Murray) (D/DO T739, T756, D/ACR 19/62).

1785: Previously occupied tenement on north side of Newland Street (Sale catalogue B462).

1825: An Ann Love had died and her property went to H.M.Love (D/DBw M40).

Mr H Thompson 1779 1779 (June) – 1790: took over Revd John Caldow’s school.

1790 (March): his house to let.

1790 (April): James Dunn took over Mr H Thompson’s house.

1785: A — Thompson previously occupied Pound cottage (probably top of what is now Avenue Road, where the pound was) (Sale catalogue B462).

1788-1803: Reverend Henry Thompson occupied part of property 44 (probably now Roslyn House, 16 Newland Street) (D/DBw M49-50).

Miss Aylmer 1780 1780 (after Christmas): opened the school after Anne A. (her mother?) died.
Misses Elliott 1781 1781 (July) – 1783?: boarding school for young ladies.

1783 (March): Miss Dyer and Miss Fulcher took the Misses Elliotts’ house.

1781: First advert says she was ‘of Ipswich’ ((Chelmsford Chronicle 6 July 1781).
Mr John Till 1782 1782: Rev John Caldow of Witham taught Latin at Mr Till’s school at Rainham (was Till Caldow’s partner ?) 1782: School to be opened at Rainham by John Till from Witham. For his character consult Rev Caldow. Latin and Greek will be taught by Revd. Caldow if required (Chelmsford Chronicle 11January 1782).
Miss Dyer and Miss Fulcher 1783 1783 (March): took the Misses Elliotts’ house.

1791 (autumn): school continued till then.

1784: Miss D occupied part of building, following Miss Love (probably part of Medina House, site of 80-84 Newland Street, next to the part occupied by Alexander Murray) (D/DO T739, T756, D/ACR 19/62).

1785: Miss D occupied tenement on north side of Newland Street near centre of town (not sure of present location) (Sale catalogue B462).

The following are maybe too late to be the same one?.

1826-27: Miss D one of ‘gentry and clergy’ (Pigot’s directory).

1839: Miss D one of ‘gentry and clergy’ (Pigot’s directory).

1839: A Sarah Dyer occupied part of house and garden (now part of site of Mill Lane car park, corner of Newland Street) (D/CT 405A and 405B, tithe award and map)).

1840: Miss D resident in Mill Lane; three in house of which two went to Anglican church, and one to Independent meeting (D/P 30/28/5).

1859: A Mary Dyer had previously occupied adjoining property which had later been occupied by Miss Houghton (theirs probably being 119 Newland Street) (deeds of property owned by Co-op: I saw these privately but they may be in Colchester RO now).

See also Mrs Dyer.

Miss Fulcher 1783 See Miss Dyer
Mr Matthews 1783? 1783: dancing master at Rev Henry Thompson’s school (Chelmsford Chronicle 10 January 1783).
Revd Alex Murray 1784 1784 (June): Took over Thomas Allen’s school.

1784 (June) – 1785? taught in Witham. Had been British chaplain in Gibraltar

1785: Garden in possession of Alexander Moreland, schoolmaster, for sale (Sale catalogue B462, part of Lot VI, probably what was formerly Lion fields, now site of Guithavon Street etc.).

1786: Alexander Moreland, also known as Murray, schoolmaster, occupied piece of garden and part of a tenement in Newland Street on the north side, occupied by Thomas Allen before him, next to the part occupied by Miss Dyer (probably part of Medina House, site of 80-84 Newland Street) (D/DO T739, T756).

Alexander Moreland 1785 See Alexander Murray.
Thomas Fort 1785 Thomas, an infant of Thomas Fort, ‘scoolmaster’, buried
James Dunn 1790 1790 (April): took over Mr H Thompson’s house. Boarding school for young gentlemen.

1790: advert called his school ‘Witham School’.

1794: moved premises.

1803: school known as ‘Witham Place Academy’ (is this Witham or Chelmsford?)

1816 (Feb): school still functioning.

1791: Witnessed will of John Firman (D/DCm F7).

c.1793: JD schoolmaster (Universal British Directory).

1803: JD one of trustees of Greene’s charity (Charity Commissioners’ report).

1803-1804: JD, schoolmaster, one of trustees of Bridge Street almshouses (D/P 30/25/80-84 and Charity Commissioners’ report).

1803:1815: JD one of trustees of Barnardiston charity (D/P 30/25/52 and Charity Commissioners’ report).

1806: A xerox of a copy book of John Harridge of Witham Place (not sure it mentions the school or James Dunn but a connection seems likely (T/B 300). John was born 26 June 1800 son of Thomas, wine merchant of Witham.

1818: ‘Lord Stourton had formerly a seat at Chipping Hill, called Witham Place; it is now occupied as a classical school by the Rev. James Dunn’ (Excursions) (Witham Place had been a large Elizabethan mansion but only part of it remained by this time (see below in 1862); it was demolished later in the 19th century. The long front wall remains (in Powershall End) and also a barn or small house which is part of Spring Lodge community centre).

1825: Revd J.S.Dunn purchased lot 5 in Maldon Road in sale (Sale catalogue B691).

1855: JD previously occupied part of property 44 (probably now Roslyn House, 16 Newland Street) (D/DBw M41).

1862: One room remained of Witham Place with stepped gable (now the barn, a room in Spring Lodge community centre). The author’s father went to school there (T/P 196/4, account by H.W.King).

Miss Woollaston 1807 1807 (July): opened boarding school for young ladies.

1815 (Jan): still functioning.

1814: Miss Woollaston occupied ‘Batfords’ (now 100 Newland Street) as a Ladies’ Boarding School (Sale Catalogue B844).
Revd W.G.Plees 1813 1813 (Oct): opened an expensive classical and commercial seminary (under 12s 40 guineas, over 12s 50 guineas).

1814 (July): still functioning.

Miss Jane Bright 1814 1814: Had a ‘preparatory school for little boys’ at Howbridge Hall (Chelmsford Chronicle, 20 May, 10 June, 24 June).

1830-62: Various references to a Miss Jane Bright owning and occupying a house in Newland Street, though no ref to school there (site of 101 Newland Street). In her will of 1860 she left to William Bright of Coggeshall, brewer, to sell (D/DBw M82, M40, M41; D/CT 405A and B (tithe award and map)).

1862: Auction of her house after her death (D/DU 56/4).

Mrs Dyer 1814 1814 Mrs D resigned and Miss Larcher taken over ladies’ seminary (Chelmsford Chronicle, 1 July)).

See also Miss Dyer.

Miss Larcher 1814 See Mrs Dyer.



(2) Private schools c.1815 to c.1830 so might have been there a bit earlier

Name; sur-name first Name; first name first First year school known Information     from Janet Gyford


Grant, Miss Miss Grant 1823-24 1823-4 and 1826-7: Miss Grant (ladies boarding) (Pigot’s directory, under ‘Academies’).
Harridge, Miss Miss Harridge 1826-27 1826-27: Miss Harridge (ladies day) (Pigot’s directory, under ‘Academies’).
Nutt, — — Nutt Pre 1833 1833: ‘Schoolmaster Nutt’ previously occupied property now near 36 Newland Street, partly taken up by Collingwood Road.
Steele, Miss Isabella Miss Isabella Steele 1823-24 1823-24: Miss Steele ladies boarding school under (Pigot’s directory, under ‘Academies’)

1826-27: Miss Steele ladies boarding school under (Pigot’s directory, under ‘Academies’)

1839: Isabella Steele had boarding school under (Pigot’s directory).

1839: Isabella Steele occupied house now High House, part of 5 Newland Street (D/CT 405A and 405B, tithe award and map)).

1840: Miss S resident south side of Newland Street. Twenty in the house, all to the Anglican church. Thinks a new (Anglican) chapel would be convenient for herself, but if her school want seats, they must be free).

1841: Arabella [sic] Steele, schoolmistress (aged 50), had c.15 girls aged 4to 16 living at the school (probably now High House, 5 Newland Street) (census returns, HO 107/343/17, ff.18-19, pp.31-32).


(3) Charity and public schools

(a) Extracts from ‘Public Spirit: dissent in Witham and Essex 1500-1700, of possible relevance to 18th century schools

 Chapter 2: ‘Useful information’: Teachers

None of the Witham establishments developed into formal ‘grammar schools’, as happened in some other towns. The licensing system was suspended during the Civil War, but re-introduced in 1660. In 1664, in addition to the licensed teacher Witham had, according to the churchwardens ‘some private schooles taught by women soe farr as horne booke and plaster and learning Children to knit and Sowe’. Horn books were boards displaying the alphabet and numbers. Perhaps ‘dame’ schools like these had always existed without need of official consent, though they may have benefited from the reduced regulation since 1642.[1]

Chapter 11: 1660 onwards

Jonas Warley, 1680-1722 [vicar]

Warley’s will of 1722 shows him to have been quite a wealthy landowner, and his bequests to his wife Deborah, who survived him by twelve years, included: a silver cup with a cover, a little silver cup, a silver porringer, a pair of silver sconces, a silver hand candlestick, her gold watch, a diamond ring, a pair of diamond earings, a peice of old gold … [and] … the use of … a silver ladel, a little silver tankard, two silver salts, six new silver spoons cyphered D.W. … the Silver Tea pott and two small silver salvers.

Several charitable bequests benefited Clare Hall in Cambridge, his birthplace of Elham in Kent, and some national organisations. His gifts to Witham did not fare well after his death. Funds left for bread for poor women were used to rebuild the steeple, whilst one of his successors borrowed the money which he gave for teaching the poor, and disappeared to Ireland with it during the 1780s. He asked that his papers should be burnt after his death, except for a special collection of sermons that had been given on public occasions, whose whereabouts is not now known. So the most enduring survival of his life in Witham is the epitaph on his tomb in the north aisle of the church’

“He was very diligent and constant in the discharge of his Archidiaconal and pastoral office; a great promoter of good works; witness this church, and the recovering 18£ per annum for 4 Almspeople, which had been lost near 80 years. He was ready to oblige every one in his Power, and willingly offended none; was always steady to the Principles and Interest of the Church, yet of so courteous a temper, as all parties respected him. He did, not only in his life do a great many good works, but left considerable Sums to several Charitys of divers kinds when he died, and lamented by most who knew him.[2]

Other clergy and teachers [1660 onwards]

The teacher Thomas Ponder, probably a Cambridge graduate, and quite elderly, provided a steady presence in the parish during the constant changes before Warley’s arrival. His wife Priscilla was one of the Garrard family, whose wealth was starting to decline; she was the sister of nonconformist Robert Garrard(2). Ponder was authorised by the bishop in 1662 ‘to teach children and others in the Rudimentes of Grammar and such other English books as are lawfully allowed to be taught in the Realme of England’. In 1664 his was reported to be the town’s only licensed school, though there were other ‘private schooles taught by women’. He was also curate of the adjoining parish of Cressing. Nine Witham wills were witnessed and probably written by him between 1669 and 1678, many more than were witnessed by the vicars. He lived in a two-hearth house, but was recorded as a pauper in 1662 and again at his death in 1679, when no valuation was made of his goods, even though the parish register called him a ‘gentleman’. Two bequests made to him by his Witham relatives may in the circumstances have been acts of charity. His brother-in-law Robert Garrard(2) left him a ‘coat that is in John Skinner’s hands to be altered’, and his nephew John Ponder left him £10, some clothes, and two books by Laudian authors. His widow Priscilla seems to have fared rather better, perhaps with funds from her relatives, as she bought a house in Newland Street in 1687 (where no.20, ‘Tiptree Villa’, now stands). Her goods were worth £25 when she died in 1696. She left the house to her youngest daughter Elizabeth, together with a Bible. Elizabeth, then aged 30, was ‘not in her Right Sences’, so her brother was to supervise her property.[3]

Vicar Francis Wright had no curate, but his successor John Harper appointed one, William Howe, in 1669. John Ponder, Thomas’s nephew, wanted Howe to preach his funeral sermon in 1678, and left him forty shillings for doing so. Howe also witnessed the will, but did not witness any others in Witham. One other teacher was layman Robert Burchard(5), like Ponder connected with a family of gentlemen and yeomen who had been established in the parish since the late sixteenth century. The Burchards had lived in the same Newland Street house throughout (now the site of nos.103/109, part of the Co-op in 1998). Robert(5) is first recorded as teaching in 1706, but he was already aged about 56 by then, and may have begun earlier. By the 1720s, his establishment seems to have been the only one in the parish that was regarded as a ‘school’. Amongst his pupils were five ‘Charity Children’ paid for by the bequest from vicar Jonas Warley.[4]

 (b) Other schools founded by parish and churches
(i) ‘Sunday and day school’
Admission registers 1787-1813 survive in the parish records for a Sunday school and for a ‘Monday and Friday school’ (which became called the Day school) (D/P 30/1/2A)). They give details of parents and their occupation, and of where the children went when they left. There was an essay submitted for the Emmison prize in 1965 about the Sunday School (T/Z 13/106).

(ii) National School
Established 1813 at top of Avenue Road (now the site of 64 Avenue Road). The whole site was only 38 feet across and 26 feet deep. Intended for 80 boys and 80 girls. By 1841 it had 98 boys and 126 girls, and new schools were built to replace it in Guithavon Street (Accession 5605 (part)).

(iii) British School
Built 1837 in Guithavon Street (D/NC 3 various). Probably preceded by teaching at the Independent church – see also Charles Case above. 

(iv) Workhouse
The parish workhouse in Church Street, built 1714, may have had some teaching also. The Union workhouse, built c.1838, had a school (e.g. see census returns).

[1] Guildhall MS 9539B/14, 9537/24/140v, 9583/2, part 3, f.125v; O.E.D. In c.1760, boys’ and girls’ boarding schools began to advertise in Witham. Church schooling began here in 1787, with new Sunday and Day Schools (Ipswich Journal, 20 Oct.1759, 10 Jan.1761; E.R.O. D/P 30/1/2A).

[2] P.R.O. PROB 11/586/167 (at first Warley left his ‘Library of Printed Books unless Duplicates’ to the master and fellows of Clare Hall in Cambridge, but this was amended by a codicil so that instead they were to have £50 when they began to build a new chapel and another £50 towards the building of a ‘New Theater’); Elham [Kent] Parish Magazine, December 1984 (Anne Brambleby kindly pointed this out); E.R.O. D/ACW 28 (Deborah Warley); manor no.156; Charity Commissioners Report, p.914; Fowler, 1911, p.22; E.R.O. D/P 30/25/92. Lilly Butler, vicar 1762-82, who took the school money, became chaplain to the Duke of Buckingham in Ireland, and Dean of Ardagh; he died in Boulogne in 1792 (Alumni Cantabrigiensis,).

[3][3] Alumni Cantabrigiensis; E.R.O. D/P 30/25/90, 91; E.R.O. D/DA T549; E.R.O. D/P 30/1/1; Gyford, 1996, pp.187, 191-92; Guildhall MSS 9539B, f.14, 9537/16, ff.17, 18v, 9537/18, f.27v; 9537/19, f.23, 9583/2, part 3, f.125v. Thomas Ponder was probably ordained in 1637. In 1654 he and his wife had lived at Stoke by Nayland in Suffolk. Venn gives him as curate of Witham as well as of Cressing in 1664, but this probably arises from a misinterpretation of the entry as schoolmaster at Witham in the same year. The churchwardens’ presentment of that year says that there was no curate in Witham. In 1669 Ponder may have been about to leave Cressing, as the vicar was ordered to get a new curate (Guildhall MS 9537/16, f.18v, 9583/2, part 3, ff 124-25v). Wills witnessed by Ponder: E.R.O. D/ACW 18/112, 18/140, 18/226, 18/318, 18/357, 19/18, 19/80, 19/112. He also witnessed other documents such as apprenticeship indentures (E.R.O. D/P 30/14/1; E.R.O. D/P 30/18/3). House, poverty, bequests etc.: E.R.O. Q/RTh 1/29, 5/18, 8/9, 9/7; Guildhall MS 9538B, f.14; E.R.O. D/ACAc 2, f.74; E.R.O. D/P 30/1/1; E.R.O. D/ACW 19/46, 19/80, 22/102; D.N.B; manor no.102 (see also 170, 173); E.R.O. D/P 30/1/2. The two books were ‘Geography’ by Peter Haylin, and a set of sermons by Lancelot Andrewes.

[4] Howe: Alumni Cantabrigiensis; E.R.O. D/ACW 19/18. Burchard: Guildhall MS 9537/24, f.140v; E.R.O. D/ACW 14/194, 20/100 (probably wills of Robert Burchard(5)’s grandfather and father respectively); manor no.1; P.R.O. PROB 11/586/167; E.R.O. D/P 30/25/93; E.R.O. D/P 30/1/2 (11 June 1738, burial of ‘Mr.Robert Burchard, formerly schoolmaster’, aged 88); E.R.O. T/A 778/2 (microfilm of Guildhall MS 25750/1). In 1722 it was said that the children were ‘only taught to read and write’ at Burchard’s school, but it was ‘duly manag’d and attended’.


The Lees family and the Midland Bank during the Second World War


Introduction by Janet Gyford

The text was written by James Lees (later known as Dickie), with sections by his father Stanley, who was Cashier in Charge at the Midland Bank. James’ younger brother was Christopher (nicknamed Topher). Jill, born in 1940, was the boys’ younger sister. Their mother was always present but not named.

The Midland Bank building is number 57 Newland Street, In the past it was sometimes known as Witham House, sometimes Newland House, and sometimes Guithavon House. At present (in 2019) it is Valero’s restaurant.

The original text was kindly sent to me by James Lees. Unfortunately I have lost touch with him since, and so I have not obtained permission to post this digital version. So if any of the Lees family would like to get in touch with me, I’d be very pleased to hear from them.

Original text written by  James Lees

I moved to Witham in the summer of 1937. My father was the chief cashier at the Midland Bank at 57 Newland Street. We lived in the lovely Georgian house “above the shop” with a fantastic garden which was to be my play world for the next 10 years. Obviously my early memories are fairly sparse, but based on photo albums and other information I realize I was lucky in that I was born into a family who had not been affected by the depression or the political turmoil of the thirties. I was born in 1935 and in 1937 my brother was born. My mother was typical of her age in that she stayed at home running the household and looking after the children but we did have a nanny for the years up until the war.

When we arrived in 1937 the garden I suspect had been a little neglected. I have a photo showing me helping my father cut grass which looked like a hay field. One of my earliest memories is of the house next door at 59 Newland Street being demolished and I believe next door some soldiers, probably the Essex Regiment, being billeted. I used to visit them because the boundary was down. During the pre-war years I have memories of a summer holiday at Mersea. During either 1938 or 1939 I remember watching a Carnival parade going down Newland Street and also watching the Essex Regiment “Beating the Retreat”. Obviously from our house we had an excellent view of anything passing up or down Newland Street. This might be a good point to describe the house.

A plan of the house at the Midland Bank in WW2

The house has three floors and cellars. As you looked at the front there was an impressive front door between two pillars. The door served as the house and bank entrance. As you entered the building up some steps the bank entrance was to the left and we entered our house through a door straight in front. Once through this door one stood in a long hall with a door to the right which went into the front lounge. This room was rectangular with three large windows looking out onto the high street and one small window which was to the left of the fireplace and opposite the door. In this room there was a trap door in the floor which led into one part of the cellar which also extended under the bank and included the bank vault. In the war my mother used to take us into this cellar during air raids.

Returning to the hall, straight ahead was another door leading out through a small porch to the garden. Half way to this door was a staircase on the right hand side which led upstairs to the first floor. Halfway up the staircase on the right a door led to a toilet that was over the small porch leading to the back garden. The stairs eventually opened out onto a large rectangular Landing.

Returning to the hall, just before the back door an entrance on the right, under the stairs led into a dining room and then from this room a door led into a large kitchen with an old cooking range. The entrance from the hall to the dining room also had a door to the right which led down some steps to another cellar area which was where the coal for the fires was stored.

Standing in the back porch looking into the garden one saw a passage way on the right which led to the kitchen and off this passage was another toilet and a small pantry. On the wall in this passage our parents used to record our rate of growth by pencilling a mark on the wall with the date.

Returning to the 1st floor landing, there were 6 doors leading off it. The three doors facing the front of the house led into, from the left, a large room which for most of my time in the house I remember as the living room, the middle room, became my bedroom and play room, and the last room another bedroom. Following round to the right was another bedroom which was my parent’s bedroom with windows looking out over the garden. Next to this room was a small bathroom. Finally the last room which also faced the garden we called the nursery, although I am not sure why as for most of the war it was a kitchen. The large old fashioned range in the original kitchen used too much fuel and so a smaller modern “Ideal Boiler” was installed in this nursery room to provide hot water. From this “nursery” two windows overlooked the garden and the roof of the large downstairs kitchen.

My memories of home at this stage and just after the war started are mainly of the old kitchen. This room had a large black range which was used for cooking and heating water. We also had a “Revo” electric cooker – a modern appliance of the day. Since I can remember we always had a dog, my earliest that I remember was called Gay, a Pembroke Corgi, later we had a Dachshund called Jenny. While talking about dogs I can remember sitting at the back door of the old kitchen eating dog biscuits and old toast that had been put out for the birds, (not because I was starving!! but because I liked them). By this stage my brother was around and I can remember him being tied to the leg of the kitchen table while he was sitting on his potty – he stayed there until he had done his business.

In this kitchen I also remember my mother making cheese from sour milk and later from goat’s milk and hanging the butter muslin cloth containing the cheese over the tap to allow the whey to drip into the sink. Another process I remember from this time was salting green runner beans to preserve them. This was done in a stone crock putting layers of beans and then layers of salt and keeping them in the cool larder for use later in the year. They were not particularly nice but frozen food did not exist. We kept chickens so surplus eggs were also preserved in a bucket of isinglass, a clear jelly substance that coated the eggs and preserved them so that they could be used later for cooking. Isinglass was originally made from dried fish swim bladders but sodium silicate was also given this name and used as an egg preservation agent through the early 20th century with large success. When fresh eggs were immersed in it, bacteria which caused the eggs to spoil were kept out and water was kept in. Eggs could be kept fresh using this method for up to five months. When boiling eggs preserved this way, one was well advised to pin-prick the egg to allow steam to escape because the shell was no longer porous.

A more pleasant procedure was marmalade making, once a year when Seville oranges were available. The Seville oranges were sliced with a gadget designed for the job.

A gadget for slicing oranges to make marmalade

For a period we kept bees and my father borrowed a centrifuge machine to collect the honey from the honeycombs. I personally preferred the smaller square combs and then eating the honey with some of the wax with a teaspoon. I also loved to have honey on my porridge at breakfast.

At the beginning of the war a “Morrison Shelter” was produced and we had one erected in the kitchen. It was

A Morrison Shelter like the one used by the Lees family during bombing raids

used as a dining table by day and we could sleep in it by night if an air raid was likely. This picture is not ours but very similar and the dresser behind in nearly identical to the one in our kitchen.

At the bottom of the garden to the right was a wooden garage. As we only had a car for a very short period before the war the main use for the garage was to keep chickens in. We fed them on boiled potatoes mixed with mash and other scraps. These potatoes were boiled in a bucket in the old kitchen.

The garden at the back of the house was to be my world for the early years of my childhood. It was large by modern standards. It had large sycamore trees to climb, a large very old mulberry tree which provided lots of large juicy mulberries every year, which stained your clothes if you got juice on them. The garden had paths on which we could ride bicycles and places to dig underground dens. Next door to our garden was a disused garden that we called the wilderness and we could get to it through a hole in the wall. This garden had a pond in it where we caught frogs and tadpoles and floated my early attempts at making model boats. I think the best idea is to draw another plan, this time of the garden.

The garden at the Midland Bank during WW2

My earliest memory of the war was 1940 in September when one lovely sunny Sunday morning my father and I watched large numbers of German planes fly over. We knew they were German because the engines made a different noise to the British ones.

[I have re-arranged these next few paragraphs so that they read better, and I have also added a few street numbers.    J.G.]

This must have been about the time that I went to my first school. It was a private school next door to us run by a Miss Murrell. I am not sure how long I was there but it must have been until the Americans were in the war and flying from Britain as I remember seeing a B17 Flying Fortress bomber flying over on fire and watching the crew bail out. The aircraft eventually crashed.

At Miss Murrell’s I was no doubt taught the 3Rs but I do not remember. I remember embroidering a needle case for my mother, and making wool balls around cardboard milk bottle tops. I remember being taught some basic French. I also remember being in trouble one day as I threw a stone from our garden over the wall into the school playground. Miss Murrell came round and told my mother and I was definitely in hot water that day.

Not necessarily in chronological order, here are some memories of the shops in Witham. Opposite us was the Bata shop and Bellamy’s the chemist. On the other side of Guithavon Street was a newsagent [number 70] then I think a shop that sold mens’ and boys’ clothes. In front of the newsagent the bus used to stop and during the war I remember seeing buses towing a gas converter to use instead of petrol. Moving to the right from our front door was Miss Murrell’s school [number 59], a small grocer’s shop and then the Spread Eagle Hotel, continuing down to the Maldon Road turn was the International Tea Company shop [numbers 43 and 45] and a sweet shop on the corner. On the opposite side from the chemist, not necessarily in the correct order was Lovedays, a butchers shop [number 58]. A small café bakery, maybe called the Carlton Café.

Then somewhere near the traffic lights was a grocers. Luckin Smith, I believe [number 50]. My memories of this shop were a chair for elderly customers to sit on while their order was made up, blue paper bags for sugar or dried fruit which was served from large sacks, I also remember flour being packed in cotton bags and sides of bacon to be freshly sliced as required, “best back” or “streaky”. Continuing past the Maldon Road turn on the right was the White Hart and then further down Woolworths.   On the left before the Collingwood Road was Spurges, a shop selling ladies wear, memorable for having the central cash cubicle with a system of cables and small containers taking the money from the counter to the cashier. After Woolworths, not next door was a butcher’s shop where I often had to go and get the Sunday joint from, again with a separate payment point, good hygiene. Further down the road was a sweet shop and even further, the library [east end of Newland Street, near post office], post office and Pork Butchers. My main memory was of Polony sausage with a red skin. Continuing out of town was the Police station with a lovely cedar tree in front of the buildings, then a bridge over the Witham Maldon railway line and the Apple factory on the right. Then open country.

Opposite the Post Office was the Whitehall cinema, a favourite haunt for me on Saturday morning, particularly to see a Roy Rogers film [number 18]. As one returns back up Newland Street there was the Dorothy L Sayers house and then later a small shop that sold wool and embroidery. My sister managed to trap her finger in the door of the shop. Going up the Collingwood Road was the Public Hall, notable for me as a place of Operatic shows. My father appeared in a number of the shows there. Further up the road there was a nursing home where my sister was born in 1940 during an air raid [46 Collingwood Road]. Jumping back now to opposite the Bank and going left was eventually the Barclays Bank [number 61] and further down Mondy’s, the Ironmongers shop. Then I remember the bakers, Palmers, I believe. I remember being told the families took their Sunday joints to be cooked there.

Eventually one came to the road up to the recreation ground but before this point I am sure there was the British Restaurant established during the war [number 67]. I remember eating lunch there sometime, not that appetising but no doubt good for us! My main memory was having to pay before you had the meal and you were given coloured discs to present at the counter. I seem to remember a yellow disc was for custard with the pudding.

On the opposite side of the road was a hairdresser, Dibbens, I think [number 90]. I remember the owner covered the walls with cartoons from the newspapers all relating to the war. I think the artists were Illingworth and Giles. Having my hair cut was not my favourite occupation as in those days no electric cutters and the hand ones used to pull the hair on ones neck. Also hair down ones back itched until one had a bath and changed ones vest. Coming back to Guithavon Street on the left heading towards the church was a slaughter house, probably belonging to Loveday’s the butchers. I remember a visit to see how the bullocks and sheep were slaughtered. A good education! The main memory was how silky and warm the inside of as bullock was. The slaughter man had told me to put my hand in after he had opened up the carcase, only shortly before hand a live bullock, killed with a bolt gun, a rod pushed into the brain and the throat cut. Sheep were dispatched with a blow to the head with a lead hammer and then the throat cut. I never saw a pig slaughtered but remember seeing the carcases having the hair removed. This all sounds a bit gruesome now but maybe it would not be a bad idea if all children had some idea of where meat comes from, (I am not a vegetarian).

At this point I thought it might be appropriate to include a diary from my father which I came across only a few years ago; such a pity that I never knew of it when my father was still alive.

Diary of Stanley Lees, Midland Bank House, Witham, Essex 23rd September 1941

Stanley Lees, Chief Cashier of the Midland Bank at Witham in WW2

“To my very dear children,
Little do you realise, as you lie snugly asleep, I hope, that I am starting to write you a letter, which, if I persevere, you may read when you are old enough to understand it. The kitchen sees the commencement of this writing, and I am half watching to see that Jenny (a Dachshund) and Gay (a Corgi) don’t fall out over their meal, of fried bacon scraps, and some most peculiar dog biscuits. They look as though they are made of cement, and last night I tasted them, I can speak on some authority when I say that they also taste as though they were. Jenny relishes them – if hungry, but Gay will only eat them if she thinks Jenny wants them.

Mummy has just interrupted my flow of inspiration, by telephoning to ask if you James are in bed. She has been to Colchester this afternoon to bring home your bicycle which is for your birthday. It is a second hand machine and has cost us £3-10s-6d, but you have agreed to pay £1 towards it from your ‘Home Safe Account’. It will be your first bicycle of many I hope, and I think you will spend many happy hours on it. You Topher [Christopher], are to have the tricycle which up till now has been James. I intend to take it from you on the 30th September, and thoroughly overhaul it – fix the bell and propeller and lower the seat etc., so that on your birthday you will, I hope, really appreciate it as a new plaything. I wonder if you realise, after all this time, what a really lovely tricycle it is. Pneumatic tyres, real driving chain, a brake, and ball bearings. Jill you must have it when Topher [Christopher] grows out of it. It was Mummy who found it for you – by replying to an advertisement in the ‘Essex Chronicle’. We got it very cheaply, far cheaper than the bicycle you are to have for your birthday James – but that was just before the war started. It was in July 1939 and you were all – no, Jill hadn’t arrived, just James and Topher were with Mummy and Joan (our Nanny) at Penfold, Kirby Cross.

I had to work for one week while you were there, but had an “Area ticket” on the railway, and travelled to and fro. The lady from whom we bought it, brought it to the bank in a car, and I can well recall that Mr Booth (Uncle Gerry) and myself had turns riding it up and down in the office by the counter.

That was a good holiday at Kirby, with the hut on Frinton beach. You may remember it, as I recall my earliest holidays with my mother and father and usually lots of relations at Trusthorpe on the Lincolnshire coast.

The shadow of approaching war was making us a little apprehensive, but as has always happened in the past, we all believe that the war could not really come again. Surely man was not so foolish as to resort to arms. Surely any dispute could be settled without such bloody slaughter and futile hatred. Surely our statesmen and those of other nations would solve any problem, without having to call on their armed forces.

We read our papers of 24 pages and though in patches, they were gloomy enough, in all conscience I think there were very few of us who really thought that war was likely in so short a time. We thought that Hitler was bluffing, in order to obtain various concessions of territory from Poland without a fight and once we called his bluff, he would temporise and be satisfied with a taken transfer of territory, so as to save face. This was doubtless wishful thinking and the result is a war which is truly devastating in its effect.

At first life proceeded much as usual. There was no shortage of food or anything else. We had certainly to contend with the ‘black out’ (covering windows at night so no light showed outside), and in this house of many windows, it was certainly a big problem. In the bank we had taken all sorts of precautions for the safeguarding of our records and securities, and for a long time it seemed that we were going to a lot of trouble for nothing. The 4th Battalion of the Essex Regiment were billeted in Witham in the autumn and winter of 1939-40 and you may remember the very fine band which turned out for church parade each Sunday. They were very smart indeed and each Wednesday afternoon they played ‘The Retreat’ in Witham High Street. It struck me at the time that though the ceremony was interesting and cleverly executed, it had a most unfortunate designation. They were a very smart body of troops, and the discipline was excellent. You may recall Lt Col Gibson who was the CO; then there was Major Newman, Major Doyle, and certainly, to the superficial and lay eye, trained their men well. I believe them now to be in Sierra Leone; though what they are doing there is difficult to imagine – though we shall doubtless learn when the war is over.

Your Godfather James, Henry Drury is a Captain in the 5th Essex Regiment and for a time was stationed at Colchester. He called here once or twice and you boys were very  thrilled with a uniformed Captain. The war has a curious effect on your childish games. Even in times of peace – lead soldiers were quite the vogue, but nowadays such things are luxuries. The lead is needed for more vital requirements, and such games as you play are performed with very crude toys, – only representing in your own minds – the real thing.

How thrilled James and Topher [Christopher] were when they saw their first barrage of balloons from a corridor of a train running into Liverpool Street; (major railway station in London) and how exciting it was to have lunch on a seat in Regents Park, with a grounded balloon only 200 yards away and more than sixty balloons dotting the sky, while the sun shone, and cheeky London sparrows outdid the more sedate pigeon in the quest for such scraps as we threw to them. Parachutes – a bit of silk – or any sort of cloth that mummy can provide tied with string in each corner and weighted – then carefully folded and thrown as high as possible to descend gradually after opening – just like, or nearly like the real thing. Aeroplanes – James you made many by nailing one piece of wood across another like a crucifix – perhaps adding a few embellishments in the shape of odd nails for guns etc., and creating quite a satisfying illusion of a Wellington or Hampton Bomber.

You may also recall, although I doubt it, how you two boys would stand on the table in the playroom and drop bricks or anything portable on to the floor, and in your fertile imagination, devastate large areas of the floor with high explosive bombs. Mummy and I were the chief sufferers, for your playroom was immediately above our lounge. I hope as I write this that you never do realise what a bad aerial bombardment is like as so many have suffered it, and are not in a position to strike back. It can only be endured in frightening silence. It is frightening, even to hear the planes overhead – before any bombs are dropped and I cannot believe that any man can hear the whistle of a bomb as it screams to Earth without a certain terror in his heart. The brave man does not show it, but it’s there just the same.

Nine O’clock and the B.B.C. News. The Russian Ambassador to the Court of St James has today given the German losses in Russia to be 3,000,000 men and 8,500 planes, truly tremendous.”

[end of Stanley’s account]

James’ account recommences:-

As you have read from my father’s account it was in 1941 that I changed from my excellent tricycle to a real bicycle. My brother Topher [Christopher] took over the tricycle. We used to ride them round the garden for hours on end. What other games did we play? In the summer we collected snails and painted their shells and then made circus rings with tightropes out of sticks and string and try and get the snails to walk the tightrope. We dug dens in the ground and covered these holes with logs and soil and of course being war, toys were difficult to get so what few toys we had we treasured even if a wheel was missing. When the weather was bad and we had to stay indoors we built forts with wooden bricks (no Lego) and put lead soldiers in them. I also used to like drawing. Paper was also in short supply so I drew on the back of some old wallpaper rolls my parents had. I particularly liked drawing ships showing every plate and rivet.

At some stage in the early 1940s I changed school from Miss Murrell’s to the High School in Colchester, a town about 15 miles to the east of Witham. It was at this school that I learnt a lesson that was to stand me in good stead for the rest of my life. During a French lesson I was caught cheating in a vocabulary test. In those days anyone breaking the rules was punished in public. In this case I was caned on my hands by the headmaster, twice on each hand. This was done in front of the whole school. Obviously the caning hurt a bit but the humiliation was worse and it taught me never to cheat again and be honest, something I hope I have been able to live up to, to the present day. I have quite a number of memories of the High School, and I visited the school some 50 years later to find that the main school building was just as it was in my day, as was the classroom in which I had been caught cheating. To attend the High School I had to travel by bus to Colchester, and on one occasion I missed the bus to get home. So I started walking the 15 miles home, luckily my mother had telephoned the bus company and a driver on a later bus saw me and stopped to pick me up. My mother I hope was pleased to see me but all I remember was that she was cross with me, gave me tea and then sent me to bed early!

Other memories of my time at Colchester were going to a local bakers shop and buying freshly baked bread and eating all the inside first. Of course it was still wartime so there were few luxuries and no new toys. Therefore second-hand toys were often swapped in the playground as were American comics that were just appearing with the arrival of the American troops in Britain. Although we did not know it, the invasion of Europe was imminent and part of a dual carriageway road, on which we travelled to school along, was being used to store military equipment for paratroops. At home I have memories of watching a German bomber drop bombs on a local factory, much to the consternation of my mother, and at this time we were being subjected to the V1 or ‘doodlebug’, a pilotless weapon being used by the Germans. Earlier we had had some incendiary bombs dropped on Witham and one landed in the garden and one on the roof. Luckily the one on the roof did not go off!

During this whole period I have not mentioned much about my parents or brother and sister. So I thought it would be interesting to include the next stage of my father’s diary.

Stanley Lees’ continues:

“24th August 1942”
“It is almost a year since I last wrote in this book, a year of war, in which we as a country have played a very small part. Russia has been bearing the brunt of the attack, and as I write, the Russians are striving in a desperate defence of Stalingrad on the Volga. I am fire watching from 10p.m. to 2 a.m. By the time you read this I hope that such things will be interesting memories.

Last week I was on holiday – you may remember we paid another visit to the Zoo with Mr & Mrs Watts and Elizabeth. Can you remember we saw the lions fed? (Yes I do.) They were given very little meat for such large animals, but doubtless the war has made the feeding of them difficult. Auntie Phil and Josephine stayed with us for the week, and Jill stayed at home with them while we went to London. Uncle Chuff died on 8th July. He had been ill for so long and had been through much suffering. He died at Hill End Hospital, St Albans and both Mummy and I went there during his last hours.

On Friday of last week, Mummy and I went to London on our own and we saw a film called ‘Fire over London’ which was a pictorial record of the terrific air raid on the City, on the nights of the 29th and 30th December 1940. The whole of the City seemed to be enveloped in flame, the camera being situated on the top of St Pauls Cathedral. Even now the City is terribly wrecked in parts and acres are completely razed to the ground, the cellars and basements being open to the sky. It has amazed me why the Germans didn’t continue such raids, for to have been near them must have been demoralising in the extreme and the cumulative effect would have been felt very much more than two raids. It’s perhaps fortunate for us that they didn’t.

You Topher [Christopher], are now in Folkestone with Auntie Phil, you went back with Jo and her mother yesterday. You need a holiday – more so than James. Perhaps it is because you strive to emulate James – and his two years seniority makes a big difference. When you got out of the train at Folkestone and saw the hills at the back of Folkestone you said, “Coo – mountains”. Essex where we now live is comparatively flat, but before you read this I hope you will have seen and climbed some real mountains, even if only in Wales or Scotland.

I am now in the Home Guard. I joined early this year. Perhaps you will wonder what the Home Guard was. Well it has been formed to oppose any invasion of these islands by the enemy, and we are equipped tolerably well. We haven’t quite enough rifles to go round, but we have L.M.G’s, H.M.G’s, and Tommy Guns, and we are to have a new automatic gun – the Sten gun. I have just been appointed Battalion Intelligence Officer and I am to have the rank of Lieutenant. How you boys love to play soldiers. You climb on the wall overlooking Barclays Bank yard and watch the guard turn out for inspection and then with toy rifles you copy them on the lawn.

Gay had a puppy in January 1942. We have her now. She’s Jan and I gave her to Mummy. Can you remember Binkie the rabbit? She had a litter of five which have now grown up. We ate one last week and now she has a litter of seven, which are four weeks old on Thursday. Do you recall Figarro the cat and Tipsy the buck rabbit? I hope we can always keep lots of animals – they are good fun, but difficult to feed in war time.

Saturday 7th November, 1942

It is not often that I make time for myself to write to you, we are very busy these days. It is a large house this Bank House at Witham, and now that we are expected to keep within a fuel target we have had to shut one or two rooms. The old kitchen range was extravagant. I burned over four tons of coal each year on that alone, so we have moved out of the kitchen and made your old playroom the general living room. We have moved the electric stove into it, and also have the gas rings, while the electric copper has been moved into the bathroom. We get better service of hot water this way, though I can imagine that the bills will be heavy. We are not using the Breakfast room either.

Your birthdays were a bit of a job this year. Toys are very scarce and such as they are, are ridiculous prices. So I made you some. James I made you a model harbour, using for my base, a wall map of Midland Bank Branches. I made the wharfs etc., with plywood, which I had scrounged from Mr Manning. Then I made you some waterline model ships, which, when painted looked really attractive. I also made you a tank from plywood, which ran on two cotton reels, which I noticed incidentally have been broken away today. Topher [Christopher] – you I made a somewhat larger tank than the one James had, you see, I was learning by experience. Then, I didn’t want to make another harbour thing for you, chiefly because I hadn’t another piece of card, so I made five small tanks – they didn’t run on wheels or anything, but they looked most effective when they had a coat of paint and I made a shed for you to put them in.

Jill my dear – all I did for you, I am sorry to say, was to repaint a tricycle that James originally had had on his 2nd birthday – still it looks very nice. I also repainted a dolls bed for you, which Mummy had when she was a little girl. Mummy did very well for you and you all had cakes with 7, 5 and 2 candles. I hope that before you read this that we shall once more have things as iced cakes and ice cream (which was stopped on 30th September), bananas and cream, and will have forgotten all the trials of rationing. I am now in the unfortunate position, that however badly I may need anything I can buy no more clothes until the 15th March. Even towels have been brought within the scope of this clothes rationing.

This week we have good news from Libya, where the 8th Army seem to have given the Axis army under Rommel a good trouncing. We are all hoping that we can follow up this advantage, so that we can clear Africa of the enemy. We all look upon this as a decisive moment of the war – and complete victory in Africa now, may help to speed the end. Stalingrad is still being held by those valiant Russians.”

[End of Stanley’s second account]


James again:-

As you have just read my father joined the Home Guard (‘Dads Army’ of the later television series) and then later had to join the regular services.

Over the period of the war my mother must have had a difficult time with three children but from my viewpoint everything seemed normal. Of course I have not mentioned the arrival of my sister on 29th October, 1940 during an air raid. I do not have many memories of her early life, except for the occasion when my mother was feeding her and I announced, as I have previously mentioned, that a German aircraft was flying by. She said how did I know it was German? I replied that it was dropping bombs!!, in fact on Crittall’s or the British Oxygen Company. As for animals over this period, I have mentioned the dogs but we also had a black and white cat called Figarro. It was very tolerant, allowing us to dress it up and put it under an upturned dolls cot to make it into a cage. It would sit and beg when we were at the table having meals and was very satisfied with a small piece of dry bread. In addition to dogs and the cat, we also kept some goats for a time and we always had the chickens. This meant that during the war we always had milk and eggs. We also had bees for a while. I think that is where I get my love of honey from. Another memory was helping the local milkman. The milk was delivered by a horse drawn milk float. The milk came from a farm at Chipping Hill, at Powers Hall End. I can remember helping to bottle the milk, after it had been through a cooler. The machine filled two bottles at a time and then one had to put the cardboard tops on, no foil tops. One day we were returning to the farm late in the war when I heard a very loud double bang. Of course I knew it was a V2, first bang breaking sound barrier, second exploding luckily in an open field not far from the farm. Of course as a young boy I had to investigate and found a large piece of aluminium full of rivet holes that had been blown from the exploding rocket, a fantastic souvenir for a young boy.

Obviously war is a terrible thing and many people suffered horribly and many people died, but personally we as a family were very lucky and I have only happy memories of this period. When the war ended in Europe in May 1945 a big bonfire was built in the middle of Witham High Street (Newland Street) at the junction with Guithavon Street directly opposite the bank and a dummy of Hitler was placed on the bonfire to be burnt.

Now that the war was over and my father was back in the bank things settled down. My memories are mainly of school, holidays and cycling to a school friend’s farm near Braxted park. In 1945 I was attending school at Colchester. It was the High School for Boys, and I travelled by bus every day. I had started this school during the war, and I have generally happy memories of my time there. The classrooms were grouped around a central hall at two levels. At the start of the day the school assembled in the hall and sang a hymn and had prayers before going to the classrooms. My memories of the school work are vague but I do remember having to write with a pen with a steel nib using ink from an inkwell in the desk. I always seemed to get ink on my fingers and my second finger on my right hand developed an area of hard skin where the pen and metal nib pressed against it.

At play time we sometimes left the playground and visited a local bakery where we bought fresh bread, still warm, and then ate the warm soft dough from the centre, before the crust. While on the subject of food, we had cooked lunches at school and they were generally quite good but my one hate was pigs liver, which always seemed to be too thick, rather dry and strong tasting.

In England at this time, the schooling system had an eleven plus exam which meant that most children took this exam in the year when they were 11, in my case 1946. If you passed the exam you went to a Grammar School and if you failed you went to a Secondary Modern School that was generally considered not to be so good. Consequently there was considerable pressure from ones parents to do well. In my case this took the form of extra tuition and coaching from my father, in particular mathematics, which sometimes ended with me in tears. However it must have worked as I passed my 11+ and in September 1946 starting at a new school in Chelmsford, King Edward 6th Grammar School for boys.

My transport arrangements changed with the new school. I now travelled by train every day. I remember my problem of missing the bus was not solved using the train. One day travelling home I got on the wrong train which did not stop at Witham but took me through to Colchester. I did manage to get home again using my own initiative but I do remember problems with the ticket collector who I eventually managed to persuade I had made a mistake and was not trying to travel free from Colchester to Witham. My time at Chelmsford was relatively short as in March 1947 my father moved from Witham to become the Midland bank manager in East Retford, Notts. My memories of Chelmsford are of a very cold winter (1946/47) when the milk we got each day at school froze in the bottles and we used to melt it on the radiators. Over the lunch period we played a sort of ice hockey in the classroom using rulers as our hockey sticks and a “Zubes” sweet tin as the puck.

The final notable memory of many that I have of my early life at Witham is something that happened on a stormy night in I think February or March 1947. The very large chimney stack with at least four chimneys in it was blown down. It crashed through the roof into the upstairs flat and deposited large quantities of soot and rubble in all the fireplaces. It had been a wet day the day before and my mother had laid out my navy blue school raincoat in front of the fire to dry. Not surprisingly it was not fit to wear to school the next day. I can remember feeling so embarrassed that I had to go to School without a coat, not because it was particularly cold but because I was not dressed like the other children.

As I have said in March 1947 that my father was promoted from Cashier in charge at the Witham sub branch of the Midland Bank in Essex to being a full manager at the branch in East Retford, Nottinghamshire. Consequently the family moved north to life in another Bank house in East Retford.