Farming in 1901

Rider Haggard’s book “Rural England”, was written in 1901. He travelled all over the country to collect his information. The book starts with a long and detailed discussion about farming in England generally. Then he deals with each county individually, including Essex. I have included below, the part which talks about Witham, and particularly about the Strutts and the Lapwoods, very different families. Although Lord Rayleigh and the Strutts were based in Terling, four miles away, they owned a lot of land in Witham, including Blunts Hall, and held office in many organisations which included Witham.

Hon. Charlie Strutt
[pp.456-457. He lived at Blunts Hall, in Witham, and farmed there.]
“A very typical Central Essex farm of the better sort was that of our host in that district, the Hon. C. H. Strutt, the well-known and able member of Parliament for the Maldon Division. Mr. Strutt held some 320 acres, whereof a fair proportion was grass, at Blunts Hall, the property of his brother, Lord Rayleigh, and kept a herd of cows, the milk of which he sent to London.

In addition to the ordinary Eastern Counties crops, such as wheat, barley, and clover-ley’, he grew eating-peas for market, and, as is not unusual in these parts, various sorts of seeds. Thus in 1901 he had a field of radish seed, which was drilled in April and cultivated in the same fashion as mangolds – by cutting out, singling, hand and horse hoeing. Twenty bushels per acre, which should realise from £16 to £20, is a good return from this crop. The greatest enemies to the successful growth of radish seed are the small birds, especially those of the linnet tribe, which, notwithstanding any amount of scaring, will sometimes consume as much as half the yield.

Another piece was planted with swedes for seed. These swedes are sown in August in beds and dibbled out about November. Twenty-four bushels of the seed, worth from 13s. to 16s. a bushel, is a good crop per acre. This seed is collected just before corn harvest, and its foe is canker at the root, which causes the affected plants to fall over. Some growers say that this crop will do as well if it is drilled and cut out in the usual fashion, which saves the labour of dibbling-in the plants from the seed-bed. Part of Mr. Strutt’s field had been treated thus, but certainly this drilled portion did not look so well as the rest. It may be, however, that the difference was caused by that section of the land being higher and more droughty than the lower stretch, which overlies a damp bottom – at least so he seemed to think. At any rate the experiment was by no means conclusive.

A third field was given up to eating-peas of an early, dwarf variety, which grows without support. Of these peas, whereof many truck-loads are sent away daily during the season from Witham Station, a hundred bags, or 300 bushels, are considered a good crop per acre, but the earliest varieties seldom produce more than fifty bags. Their value varies very much: it may begin at 15s. a bag, or even more, and afterwards fall so low that the price realised will scarcely suffice to pay brokerage and railway charges.

Like most of the surrounding land, Mr. Strutt’s farm was suffering severely from drought at the time of my inspection; indeed, he stated that he never remembered to have seen it look worse, not even in the black year of 1893. This, however, was not his fault, but that of the season, and of the lack of rainfall, which for some years past had afflicted Essex so severely that, as I noticed in many places, the trees were dying in great numbers. Night after night and week after week the clouds gathered – ‘Essex shows’ is the local name for them – only to belie their promise and carry the moisture with which they were charged to some more favoured spot. ‘It never do rain in Essex now,’ said one despairing farmer to me, ‘and I begin to think it never will.’ So far as the cultivation and management of Mr. Strutt’s land were concerned, I do not see how they could be improved upon, and I am glad to be able to add that the financial results had on the whole, proved as good as could be expected in these times.”

John and Ann Lapwood
[pp. 458-459]
“Not far from Blunts Hall I saw an old labourer named John Lapwood, whose life experience, which I verified by inquiry, is worth preserving. For half a century or more he worked on the Post Hall [Powers Hall] and Oliver Farms in Witham, and now, by the help of some kind friends, was spending his last days in a little cottage, where he lived with his old wife. We found him – an aged and withered but still an applecheeked individual – seated upon a bank, ‘enjoying of the sweet air, although it be a bit draughty.’

He told me that in his young days wages for horsemen used to be down to 9s, a week, and for daymen to 8s., when the weather allowed them to be earned. During the Crimean War bread cost him a shilling a loaf, and other food a proportionate price. He stated that for months at a time he had existed upon nothing but a diet of bread and onions, washed down, when he was lucky, with a little small – beer. These onions he ate until they took the skin off the roof of his mouth, blistering it to whiteness, after which he was obliged to soak them in salt to draw the ‘virtue’ out of them. They had no tea, but his wife imitated the appearance of that beverage by soaking a burnt crust of bread in boiling water.

On this diet he became so feeble that the reek of the muck which it was his duty to turn, made him sick and faint; and often, he said, he would walk home at night from the patch of ground where he grew the onions and some other vegetables, with swimming head and uncertain feet.

I asked if his children, of whom there were eight, lived on onions also. He answered no; they had generally a little cheese and butter in the house, but he could not put it into his own stomach when they were hungry and cried for food. ‘Things is better now,’ he added.

Well, things are better now; indeed, it is scarcely too much to say that in many cases to-day, the labourer has more than his share of the rather plumless agricultural cake. But with such a record behind him, knowing what his fathers suffered, is it wonderful that he should strive to drive home the nail of opportunity, and sometimes to take advantage of the farmers who in the past too often were so merciless ?

Let us try to understand his case and be just. Think, for instance, of this poor man Lapwood, whose condition was but that of ten thousand others, day by day forcing his hated food into a blistered mouth, starving that his children might be full. Think of him with his 9s. a week, and ten souls to feed, house, and clothe, while bread stood at a shilling a loaf. Remember, too, that from this lot there was no escape; that labour was in overflowing supply; and that to lift his voice against an employer, however tyrannous, meant instant dismissal and the hell of the poor-house – it was little better in those days – or the roadside ditch to lie in.

Is it strange that, remembering these things, he – or rather his sons – should wax fat and kick, that they should be haunted also by the fear that the evil might return upon them, and bear in their hearts resentment, cloaked but very real, against those classes at whose hands they received that evil of which no subsequent kindness can obliterate the memory ? With the agricultural labourer, as I believe, this resentment against past suffering, at any rate as yet, is deeper than gratitude for present benefits. Indeed, gratitude is scarcely his strong point. Thus, to take the example of the family of this very man, I was informed that those children for whom he starved, did not do all they might to make his last days easy.


The Waterworks and William Duncombe

The Waterworks and William Duncombe, Water engineer.

William’s career as Witham’s Waterworks Engineer, as told by the records of the Witham Urban District Council, i.e.

Witham UDC minutes 1911-1945. (Essex Record Office reference D/UWi 1 etc)

The troops referred to were billeted in Witham for training during the First World War.

These are notes by me, Janet Gyford, not the original words. If the original words are quoted, they are in punctuation marks.

Council, 29 May 1916
page 323. Letter from Mr J Goodey re long hours ‘he and Duncombe’ were working because of summer approaching and the number of troops. Suggest Duncombe made full time, or otherwise additional pay. To Water Works Committee.

Waterworks Committee, 2 June 1916, page 178
Mr Goodey to have extra help during the War ‘by Mr Duncombe going to the water Works at 2 p.m. each day instead of 4 p.m. as heretofore’.

26 June 1916   Council
page 327. Water works Committee, re extra help by Duncombe going in at 2 p.m. instead of 4 p.m., adopted.
pages 329-30. Letter from eight employees of council for further increase in wages. Refuse.

Waterworks Committee, 30 September 1919, page 10
Applications for post of engineer received. Names given. Only one from Witham, William Duncombe. 3 others. Proposed to have interview and pay 3rd class rail fares.

Waterworks Committee, 8 October 1919, page 13
William Duncombe appointed at £2 10 0 with house, coal and lighting. Also to undertake the Inspection of Taps at £10 a year.

Deputy clerk to arrange to compensate Mr Goodey for fruit trees left by him in the garden at the Waterworks.

Public Health Committee, 19 September 1932
page 39. Re-arrangement of outside staff in view of a bulk supply of water being shortly taken from the Silver End Development Co Ltd’.

W Duncombe now Waterworks Engineer. Offer him Working Foreman and free occupation of present house, also Tap inspector. £2 10s a week.

Public Health Committee, 15 February 1933
page 88. Remove W Duncombe foreman from his house at the Waterworks Braintree Road to the foreman’s house at the Old Waterworks Newland Street now occ by Mr Hume, nearer to duties.

30 October 1944.   Council
Page 705. William Duncombe, one of Council’s workmen for 45 years, had to retire through ill health. Letter to be sent.

Finance and General Purposes Committee, 12 December 1944
page 465. William Duncombe, foreman, retired because of illness and doctor’s advice. Enquiries re his position afterwards. Not a good time to replace him.
page 491 Re William Duncombe [mentioned before as retiring through illness]. Recommend making him Council’s Water Inspector at 7s 6d per week. 

29 January 1945   Council
Page 720. Finance and General Purposes Committee OK, though Councillor Cuthbe didn’t agree with the paragraph about William Duncombe.


Thomasin family, and the Brush Factory

The Brush Factory was one of Witham’s most important industries in the mid 19th century. It had developed from Matthew Thomasin’s wooden patten-making business of the early 1700s (Pattens were rather like clogs, worn outside the shoe).

The Works and the Yard were just off Newland Street (behind what are now numbers 67 and 83). In the Yard there were a number of buildings, including a mop manufactory and 15 or 16 houses, some of which were used for both living and working in.

The most essential raw material for brushes, bristle from wild boars, was imported from Russia. The completed brushes were despatched far and wide.

There were about twenty brushworkers in 1829, and fifty by 1841. It was skilled work. The Witham branch of the Brushmakers Society was particularly active. Like other similar groups, it was run by the members, whose contributions entitled them to receive sick pay and other benefits. They met first at the White Hart and later at the Swan.

The national Society was a pioneer of trade unionism, which was then illegal. Its members followed a 1,200 mile tramping route round the country, looking for work. If they did not find any on the whole route, they were paid ten shillings unemployment benefit. In the list, Witham was the first stop out of London, and the local branch here would help travellers and newcomers following the route.

William Kiddier, in his book The Old Trade Unions (pp.30-31), described an occasion when “the eyes of the Trade were on Witham.” In 1826 “The Society at Witham, with its 17 men, had for Secretary James Mount: one of the INTELLECTUALS. A name adopted by the Brushmakers for their best expounders of Trade Principles. The Witham Society sent James Mount as Delegate to London, where Witham was proposing new arrangements about sick pay and benefits. He slept 4 nights at the Clubhouse, April 11-14, 1826. A keen observer was Mount, and things he saw were dealt with in the Witham Society’s Circular. A lengthy document addressed to the Trade. Done in literary style. The collaboration of 17 Men – the Witham Society, all had their say, and James Mount put it together … The eyes of the Trade were on Witham.” In due course, the Society paid for some members to emigrate to America to find work, and Witham’s James Mount was probably one of them.

The tramping system meant that Witham’s brushworkers mostly came from other parts of the country. In 1841 four out of every five of them had been born outside Essex (compared with only one in every seventy of the farmworkers). The strange accents, tarry smells, and self-sufficient welfare system must have made the brush yard a mysterious place to local residents. Much of the work entailed dipping the separate sections of the brush into a tub full of hot tar. But by 1851 the tramping system was waning and half the workers were Essex men, with a third born in Witham.

The Thomasins themselves seemed destined not to fit in very well in Witham. This was quite common with factory owners – one of the several problems being that they usually paid more than the tradesmen, and especially more than the farmers. Also the factory owners were often nonconformists in religion (usually Congregationalists). The adherents of the Church of England considered themselves to be much superior to nonconformists.

A more particular difficulty for the Thomasins was their alleged association with the Witham Fires of 1828-29. There is a fuller account in my booklet “Men of Bad Character” in the books category. Jane Eleanor, the wife of brushmaker James Thomasin, was the aunt of Edmund Potto. Edmund was accused of starting the fires with which some of the farmers and tradesmen had been suffering. James Thomasin paid for defence witnesses, including James Mount, a brushworker. They all said that Edmund was not guilty but insane. Edmund was found guilty by the jury of sending a threatening letter, but not of fire raising. The judge scolded James Thomasin and said that he should have looked after Edmund better. Edmund was transported to Australia.

In the town, feeling was running high because the young boy James Cooke had earlier been hanged for arson when it seemed he was innocent. So for Edmund Potto not to be found guilty caused a lot of resentment, against the jury and against the Pottos and the Thomasins.

The arrival of the railway in 1843 probably increased the profits of local businesses. After James Thomasin died in 1845, his son George took over, buying more properties and also helping the nonconformist cause in local debates.

In 1850 Edward Cresy, a public health official, was sent by the government to make a survey of Witham. Thomasins’ yard was found to be in a similar state to the rest of the town. Mr Cresy wrote “The narrow yard, called Thomason’s is encumbered with several nuisances, dung-pits, &c., &c. There are 15 or 16 cottages, in some of which manufactories of mops and brushes are carried on; both drainage and ventilation are exceedingly defective, and every inch of space is encumbered with the rubbish belonging to the trades.”

George wasn’t deterred by this. Appointing Samuel Spooner as manager and ‘commercial traveller’ at the Works, he moved his own family away from the yard into the imposing Roslyn House, at the best end of the street (now 16 Newland Street). He described himself as a ‘gentleman’ when he completed the 1861 census forms. However his neighbour, Joseph Howell Blood, was the registrar, and wrote him down as ‘brush manufacturer’ instead. George has posthumously had the last laugh – his great-great-grandson, Mark Thomasin Foster, was High Sheriff of Essex from 2003-2004.

George died in his fifties in 1868, after trying to ‘doctor himself upon the homeopathic system’. Shops closed for his funeral and over fifty men and boys from the brush yard joined the procession. One of them, Thomas Farrow, had worked there for 55 years.

George’s assets were worth nearly £45,000 (about £2 million at today’s values) in addition to land and buildings. His young son James was set to be a stockbroker and not a brushmaker. So his widow, Mary Elizabeth, persuaded some of her sister’s family, the Adnams, to come from Berkshire and run the brush factory with Samuel Spooner, the manager.

So in 1869 it was “Messrs Adnams and Spooner’s brush manufactory”, who put forward a cricket team to play on the newly free Saturday afternoons under the Workshops Act. Not all of their opponents arrived and the Adnams won.
The directory of 1870 still gives them as “Adnams & Spooner, brush manufacturers”. However, they closed after three years, in 1871.

The two young men George and Ernest Adnams then left their father in Witham, and went to Southwold, on the Suffolk coast, to take over a brewery.

George was restless and moved to South Africa, where is said to have drowned (or, in some versions, was eaten by a crocodile). Another possibility is that he came back to England, and was the George Adnams who was recorded blind in the 1881 census, when he was living with his uncle’s family in London. I have not investigated this further.

To return to Ernest, at the Southwold brewery, it appears that in 1895 he received a handsome loan or gift from his aunt Mary Elizabeth Thomasin. In 1895 she and her son John George took out a mortgage for £2,000 on the Thomasin family’s considerable Witham estate. In the same year, John George acquired the Southwold brewery and transferred it to his cousin Ernest whose business was by then “Adnams and Co Ltd .”

The father of George and Ernest was another George Adnams. He stayed in Witham with his wife and daughters, and set up a fruit growing business. He was described in the 1881 census as “Farmer Of 120 Acres [with] 8 Men & 4 Women”.

He was also on the Committee of Witham’s Co-operative Society. He sold one of the family properties to the Co-op for their first Witham shop (at 85 Newland Street). To many of the townspeople that was a particularly unwelcome body, undercutting the regular shops.

George Adnams died in 1902, aged 84, and is buried at All Saints church (Holy Family).



Essex Weekly News, 24 September 1869

‘One result of the suspension of business on Saturdays at two-oclock, at Messrs Adnams and Spooner’s brush manufactory, under the Workshops Act, was a match at cricket between eleven of the firm and what was to have been eleven of the firm of Messrs. Johns and Co., fellmongers, Witham and Chelmsford’. The Chelmsford people didn’t turn up so the latter team consisted of two from the Witham firm and others from Witham. The brushmakers won with 98 runs to 61. G Adnams got 0 and E Adnams got 6.

The By-Pass

The By-pass

This was opened in 1964 to take the A12 past Witham. The A12 leads from London, to Lowestoft in Suffolk.
These extracts relate to the discussions up to 1937

UDC Public Health Committee, 11 December 1934
page 430. Representation from the County Council re Ribbon Development. Proposes sterilising the ground between Hatfield Peverel and Witham, having a proposed by pass of Witham 1.67 miles long, and another 0.4 miles to the west of the Fox. Also a Rivenhall by-pass continuing it at 0.9 miles, as far as Durwards Hall. 

UDC Finance and General Purposes Committee, 12 February 1935
page 497. Surveyor has met Mr Giles of Essex County Council about the proposed Witham by pass. Ask that ‘point of contact with main road on Colchester side should be at Little Braxted Lane’.

UDC Public Health Committee, 5 March 1935
page 510. The County Council now propose to by-pass Rivenhall End.

 UDC, April 1935, Braintree and Witham Times, review of 1935, 2 Jan 1936, page 2
‘Decision confirmed to by-pass Witham and part of Rivenhall in scheme for facilitating road travel between London and East Anglia. Witham tradesmen strenuously protest’.

UDC Water, Highways and Works Committee, 16 December 1936 page 629. Notice from Essex County Council under Restriction of Ribbon Development Act 1935. Restriction of development on the line of the proposed Witham to Rivenhall End by pass. Details listed.

UDC Joint Public Health and Water, Highways and Works Committee, 20 March 1937
Corner of Bridge Street and Howbridge Road. The County Surveyor wants it widened. The Committee thinks Bridge Street should be widened itself, instead of having a by-pass. Meet the County Surveyor. 

UDC Public Health Committee and Water, Highways and Works Committee, 4 May 1937, page 26a
Proposed to say to the Ministry of Transport that ‘one motor way should be put down parallel with the London-Yarmouth Road to take motor traffic’, instead of loops round each place. This proposal was deleted by the  full Council.

UDC Water, Highways and Works Committee, 5 May 1937
[page 60] Recommend not approving the bypass and suggest a through-road from Gallows Corner to Colchester. Endorsed, see Council minutes 283 and 286.

Markets and Fairs

Markets and Fairs at Witham

An earlier version of this summary is now in the Essex Record Office as T/P 570 (accession T1598)

© Janet Gyford 2001

These markets and fairs belonged to the combined manors of Chipping/Witham and Newland, and all the grants etc. are to the lords of those manors

See a separate document about the cattle market

The schedule in Essex Markets and Fairs, by W.Walker, published by Essex Record Office in 1981 (p.35), omits the records of a pre-1212 market at Witham.

Morant and other county historians referred to a market day on Wednesday, but this was a misreading of the Latin and it was actually Tuesday (see entry under 1218/9 below).

It is possible that the grant of 25 June 1703 may still authorise the lord of the manors to have a Tuesday market in Newland Street. The lord will be the heir of the Charles Du Cane who held the manors in 1937, or whoever he may have sold the rights to. The fairs which were also granted then were abolished in 1891.

The lord of the manor’s copy of the grant document of 1703 is in the Essex Record Office (part of D/DDc T81).

Chronological list

c.1153-4 (Stephen), also confirming 1100-1135

Confirmation of a market at Witham [i.e. Chipping Hill]; it had been held in time of King Henry [1100-1135]. Grant to the Knights Templars. No day given.

Original: British Library, MS Cotton Nero, E.VI fo.290

Reproduced in: Lees, p.152; Gervers, pp.56-57

N.B. not mentioned in Walker

The market in Henry’s time would have been one of the earliest in Essex after the Norman conquest, according to R.H.Britnell.

c.1155 (Henry II)

Confirmation of a market at Witham [i.e. Chipping Hill]. As 1153-4. To the Knights Templars. No new information.

Original: British Library, MS Cotton Nero. E.VI fo.304 (according to Lees)

Reproduced in: Lees, pp.152-3

N.B. not mentioned in Walker

1189 (Richard I)

Confirmation of a market at Witham [i.e. Chipping Hill]. As 1153-4. To the Knights Templars. No new information.

Original: P.R.O. [TNA] C. Misc.Bundle 12/5 (according to Lees)

Reproduced in: Lees, p.141

N.B. not mentioned in Walker

1199-1200 (1 John)

Confirmation of a market at Witham [i.e. Chipping Hill] (m.34 is also manor & half hundred). As 1153-4. To the Knights Templars. No new information.

Original: P.R.O. [TNA] C 53/1, mm.34, 33

Reproduced in: Rot.Chart. (Rec.Com.), pp.2, 2-3; Gervers, p.31

N.B. not mentioned in Walker

1212 (14 John)

Grant of a charter for a Thursday market, & a 3-day fair at the Beheading of John Baptist [29 Aug.], at the new town of Wulvesford in Witham [i.e. Newland]. To the Knights Templars.

Original: P.R.O. C 53/10, m.4

Reproduced in: Rot.Chart. (Rec.Com.), p.188; Gervers, p.6

1218/9 (3 Hen.III)

Order to the sheriff of Essex that the market that was accustomed to be held every Sunday at Witham [i.e. Chipping Hill] shall be held every Tuesday at the same.

Original: P.R.O. [TNA] C 54/21, m.12

Reproduced in Rot.Litt.Claus. (Rec.Com.), 386

N.B. This is widely quoted in error (though not dated) as being a change from Sunday to Wednesday (e.g. in Morant, p.105 (quoting Symonds), and in various directories). This must come from a misreading of the ‘mart.’ (Tuesday) in the original to mean ‘merc.’ (Wednesday). I checked this, and the ‘t’ does look like a ‘c’ but the ‘a’ is fairly unmistakable and the Record Commissioners’ calendar agrees. Also see below in 1379 when the Tuesday market at Witham [Chipping Hill] was moved to Newland.

1227 (11 Henry III)

Confirmation of a market at Wulversford [i.e. Newland] & fair (m.29 is also a manor & half-hundred). As 1212. To the Knights Templars. No new information.

Original: P.R.O. [TNA] C 53/18, mm.32, 29

Reproduced in: Cal.Chart.R. 1226-57, 5, 8


Survey of Witham manor (possibly not including Newland?). Said the market was held on Tuesdays. Fairs were at the Feasts of St.Laurence & the beheading of St.John Baptist. Inquest into manor & Knights Templars possessions.

Reproduced in: Gervers, pp.52-53


The Knights Templars were disbanded by the King, who granted their property to the Knights Hospitallers.

1379 (3 Richard II)

Grant of a charter for a market. On Tuesday at Newland, part of manor of Witham, ‘in lieu of a market on Tuesday in the manor of Witham’ [i.e. Chipping Hill]. To the Knights Hospitallers.

Original: P.R.O. [TNA] C 53/157, m.25

Reproduced in: Cal.Chart.R. 1341-1417, 258


Knights Hospitallers dissolved by Henry VIII. Their rights & properties were at first leased by, and by the 17th century held by, the tenants of Cressing Temple, the Smith/Nevill family.


Illegitimate child of a Coggeshall woman was said to have been conceived at Witham fair.

E.R.O. Q/SR 80/37, 80/53.

17th century

For the 17th-century market in Newland Street, see Witham 1500-1700 Making a Living by Janet Gyford, pages 138-142. There was a market house, also known as the market cross, as well as an outdoor market.

1616 (James I)

Grant for 37 years of two annual fairs, on the Monday before Pentecost (i.e. before Whit Sunday), and on Allhallows day (All Saints, November lst). The Annual fair had been held on the Sunday after the feast of St.Laurence (10 August or 3 February) on the hill called Chipping Hill since time out of mind. This profanes the sabbath; hence the change. To William Smith.

Original: P.R.O. [TNA] C 66/2063, no.3


The Smiths sold the manors & the rights etc. to the Blackman family.

Recited in the original: E.R.O. D/DDc T81 (date confirmed by court rolls in E.R.O. D/DBw M28).


The Blackmans sold part of the manors, including the manorial rights, to the Bennett family.

Original: E.R.O. D/DDc T81

1669, 14 August

John Bennett, lord of the manor, wanted to revive the fairs, which he wrote ‘have beene discontinued about 30 yeares, yett some Inhabitants doe remember what dayes they were kept the one being on Holyrood day’ [14 September]. He asked a Mr.Riley to find the original grant for the fairs; the letter is annotated with a note about the grant of 1212.

Original: E.R.O. D/DBw M85, 14 Aug.1669

1702/3, 8 Feb.

Petition to the Crown from John Bennett, lord of manor, et al., saying that there had been a market on Tuesday for corn & other things, & 2 annual fairs, and that it would be an advantage to have a weekly beast market.

Reproduced: Cal.S.P.Dom. 1703-4, 376

1703, 3 April (2 Anne)

Application from John Bennett for a weekly market on Tuesday, and two annual three-day fairs on Monday before Feast of Pentecost (Whit Sunday), & Sept.14th (if any of days is a Sunday, then on Monday instead), for cattle, sheep & goods.

Summarised in: Appendix, Final Report, Roval Commission on Market Rights and Tolls, 1890/1, p.134 (originals in P.R.O. [TNA] ‘Writs and Inquisitions ad quod Damnum’ according to this report).

1703, 30 May (2 Anne)

Report of the inquest of 9 April; it had been decided that it was acceptable to grant markets and fairs as requested above.

Reproduced: Cal.S.P.Dom. 1703-4, 452

1703, 25 June (Anne)

Grant of market on Tuesdays (till 4 pm.) & 2 annual fairs ‘in manor of Newland’ for buying and selling all goods & chattels [in Latin – probably means cattle too]. Two fairs as in the application above. To John Bennett (lord of manor). An Inquisition had been held at the Blue Boar in Maldon.

[The market grant  is probably still valid today; the fairs were abolished in 1891].

Original: E.R.O. D/DDc T81 (includes the original grant); P.R.O.  [TNA] C 66/3440, no.16

Summarised in: Appendix, Final Report, Royal Commission on Market Rights and Tolls, 1890/1, p.134


Item for sale on 9 December 2004 by Mullock and Madeley, The Old Shippon, Wall under Heywood, near Church Stretton, Shropshire, SY6 7DS.

Lot 460. “Rights to hold Markets in Witham, Essex Sussex/Essex historically important vellum indenture on a single large leaf dated January 29th 1724, being the sale of the Manor and Lordship of Witham Chipping and Newland in Witham, by John Bennett, master of the High Court of Chancery, detailing the estates of the Manor in both Essex and Sussex, and also the rights to hold Markets in Witham with all profits and tolls as well as the granting of ancient commons and fishing rights , together with Sedgwick Park in Sussex. One small hole in folds, one original hole in vellum at top not affecting text, otherwise in good legible condition throughout, signed and sealed by all parties to base Scarce. Documents of this nature rarely appear on the market, and the present document provides a wealth of information about the nature of the manor and its various rights and privileges” Estimate £50-70

 1773-8: Morant’s History of Essex

Market on Tuesdays. Fairs held on Monday before Whitsun and on September 14.

Probably 1788

The fair on June 4th and 5th was probably instituted at Chipping Hill, to celebrate the recovery of George III from madness; June 4th was the King’s birthday.

E.R.O. D/DBs E11 (dated c.1860s but refers to the origin of this fair)

1823-4 and 1839: Pigot’s directories

Market on Tuesday. Fairs on the Monday before Whitsun and on 14 September. In view of the previous paragraph, this information may have been out of date and perhaps came from a source such as Morant’s history.

1848 & 1863: White’s directories

‘A small market every Tuesday, for corn, cattle &c., and pleasure fairs on the Friday and Saturday in Whitsun week, and on June 4th and 5th. The latter is held at Chipping Hill’. [note that the entry in the 1863 directory may have been copied from the 1848 one without being updated].

Probably about 1860

A petition survives from 24 residents of Chipping Hill, headed by the vicar, John Bramston. This was addressed to the lord of the manor, Charles Du Cane, and read:

We … request you … to withhold your consent to having booths and stalls erected on the highway at Chipping Hill on the highway leading up to the Church, and on the little green in front of the Church, on any day in the week preceding or following the 4th of June. It is well known that Chipping Hill Fair is not a Statute fair but was commenced within the memory of persons now living to celebrate the recovery of King George the 3rd and was therefore first held on the 4th of June, his birthday. This fair is wholly unnecessary for any purpose whatever as the regular Fair for the Parish is held in Witham on the Friday in Whitsun week, within a fortnight of the 4th of June. Chipping Hill Fair has long been a nuisance to the respectable inhabitants, as interrupting their regular business, obstructing the highway and bringing together at night the worst characters of the neighbourhood, both male and female. Moreover the little green, where many of the stalls are pitched, is in every way ill adapted to the purpose in as much as the entrance to the Church yard is thereby completely blocked up.

Original: E.R.O. D/DBs Ell

1855, 1859, 1867: P.O./Kelly’s directories

A market is held on Tuesday evenings at the Angel inn, High Street [this was where nos.39/41 Newland Street now stand, on the S.W. corner of Newland Street and Maldon Road]. Pleasure fairs on Friday and Saturday in Whitsun week.

Also in 1855 in the listing: Smith Robert, Angel commercial inn & market house, & brewer

1870: Kelly’s directory

The market is now discontinued. Pleasure fairs are held on Friday and Saturday in Whitsun week.


A photo survives of the fair in Newland Street at about this time (see photo M231) (also in the Maurice Smith collection in Witham library).

A description of the fairs, probably describing the 1870s but written 60 years later, has also been preserved. It reads:

“Twice a year, the travelling fairs came to Witham ~ one at Whitsuntide to Newland Street, and in the summer time to the Hill leading to the Parish Church. These were really delightful occasions – there were Roundabouts and Horses and Carriages … and very wonderful to the children of those days – Swing boats, which one pretended to enjoy but which often made one feel very sick – stalls with their cakes (which I have never tasted since) – and Fair Gingerbread, made in the shape of cats with currants for eyes – peel for nose and mouth – China stalls, with figures of black and white cats and dogs – twin little red Cinderella slippers and later on guns, shooting stalls, and china sheep made with rough sides to represent wool. The greatest attraction was the Merry go round, worked by a horse, which walked sedately to the accompaniment of crude music.

Original: E.R.O. T/P 133/23

It was also recorded that the Whitsun fair was on the slope in the road between the Post Office [then at 82 Newland Street], and Guithavon Street; this slope had since been levelled to be part of the road.]

Original: E.R.O. T/P 133/23


1874, 1882, 1886, 1890: Kelly’s directories

There are fairs on Friday and Saturday in Whitsun week and on June 4 at Chipping Hill.

1890: Kelly’s directory

There were fairs on Friday and Saturday in Whitsun, & June 4, at Chipping Hill.

Article in Braintree and Witham Times, 21 February 1935, page 6, about the retirement of William W Oxbrow from Witham Post Office. He started work at the Post Office in about 1889. He recalled ‘the days when Witham’s annual fair was held in the High Street, the attractions invariably included a menagerie. The menagerie usually stood outside the Post Office building, and whilst on night duty as a telegraphist, it was not unusual for him to have a free, but nevertheless unwelcome, entertainment – the roar of the lions, and a hundred and one other unfamiliar sounds which came from the animal inmates of the show”.

Essex County Chronicle, 26 December 1890

“WITHAM AND CHIPPING HILL FAIRS. PRESENTMENT BY THE LOCAL BOARD. The Witham Local Board sent a letter requesting the bench to ask the Home Secretary to take the necessary steps for the abolition of the fairs at Witham and Chipping Hill. The magistrates acceded to the request, the Chairman remarking upon the dangerous nature of the fairs and the accidents caused by the frightening of the horses at the noise”.


The Witham fairs were abolished by order of the Home Secretary, under the provisions of the Fairs Act, 1871, as a result of a request by the justices of the Witham Division, who in turn had been asked by the Witham Local Board of Health to make the application. The lord of the manor (Charles H.C. Du Cane) gave his consent; it was said that for some years he had taken no tolls. These were the ‘Witham’ fair (in Newland Street) on Friday and Saturday in Whitsun week, and the Chipping Hill fair on 4 & 5 June

The Board reported that: Witham Fair has been accustomed to be held in the High Street, but for the past year or two a portion of it has been held on private property thus leaving the High Street to be occupied principally by Swings and Cocoanut Shies. Chipping Hill Fair is held on and adjacent to the path to the Parish Church and when Divine Service is held on Fair days the Fair is necessarily a cause of complaint.

The town crier, George Wood, had posted copies of the relevant notice at 20 shops, pubs and public establishments in the town. A letter from Charles Cranfield (National School headmaster), in his role as secretary of the Witham Ratepayers’ Association, recorded that the Association ‘heartily supports’ abolition. The Police Superintendent, G.Allen, was consulted, and wrote that:

“During the last five years no cases of disorder or immorality have been discovered or brought to the knowledge of the Police, neither has any person been proceeded against before the Bench … In my opinion, the reasonable enjoyment of any class of people would not in the slightest way be interfered with by their abolition … I believe it is the unanimous feeling of all persons that the Fairs should be discontinued.

The most objectionable results attending these Fairs in the Streets are the obstructions caused by shooting galleries, swinging boats, and cocoa nut shies, all of which are very dangerous, and they are generally attended by gipsies. The inhabitants have frequently complained of the nuisance they cause.

The respectable part of the Fairs is always held in private grounds: it is only the low element who stand in the streets.”

Original: P.R.O. [TNA] HO 45/9835/B10169 (Victoria)

1895, 1899, 1902: Kelly’s directories

Fortnightly privately-run sale of fat and store stock in a field adjoining the railway near Chipping Hill [i.e. where the Labour Hall now stands]. Fairs not mentioned.

UDC Road Committee, 19 September 1911, page 43

‘As to Stalls in Streets’, a charge of 1 shilling per day to be made ‘for any stalls erected in the streets’.

Braintree and Witham Times, 5 November 1931, page 5, cols 4 and 5

Old photo of a fair in Witham High Street. The well-known one, quite good quality (see Photo M321). Says it is in about 1870. On the right, Cheek’s printing office, in the building now occupied by Clark. London House to the left. The Old Public Hall with the clock and bell turret. Then after, it was the Conservative Club. The Post Office at this time was on opposite side of road where now is King’s jewellers. “In the forefront of the picture can be seen a shooting gallery. the iron work tube used as a safety measure must have extended across the High Street end of Guithavon Street. To the right of this, but not shewn in the picture – in fact, exactly where the present telephone box stands – stood a greasy pole, which afforded much amusement for the youths of the day. The outside of a boxing booth shews up on the left of the picture. It is interesting to note that the telegraph pole carried but six insulators, also at that period only one message per wire was possible at the same moment.

The successor to the telegraph pole of our picture now carries 92 insulators, while a number of messages can be transmitted simultaneously over one wire. The caravan race of people who attended Witham and similar fairs are now becoming extinct. … At the time our picture was taken there was in business in Witham a Mr Priddy, wine and spirit merchant. On the occasion of the annual fair he used to place barrels half-full of water, with apples floating on top, outside his shop. Schoolboys and youths created much fun in their efforts to extract the apples with their hands tied behind them. The local Council might consider obtaining the original of our picture, having an enlargement made, and hanging the picture in their Council Chamber. It is a link in the history of Witham.

At night the booths were illuminated by naphtha flares. Cakes and gingerbread found ready purchasers. Itinerant pedlars disposed of their wares. As the evening wore on the public houses became full. Ribald jests and rough horseplay were the order of the day. The boxing booth proprietor had no need to put his own staff on the platform. there were plenty of aspirants to put on the gloves with each other. The then inhabitants of Witham were probably not sorry when fairs disappeared from the High Street.”

UDC Estates Committee, 20 July 1932

page 22. Recreation Ground, Maldon Road to be closed from 2 p.m. on 20 August for Carnival. Permission for some lengths of railings to be removed to admit vehicles as before. Also ‘permission be given for the piece of ground immediately adjoining Mr Mondy’s garden to be used for amusements and a Fair, if any’. [the garden behind 63 Newland Street]

UDC Public Health Committee, 25 May 1936

page 401. Medical Officer of Health and Sanitary Inspector inspected ‘the Fair ground adjoining the peculiar Peoples Chapel’ during a recent fair. No evidence of nuisance. [the chapel near the corner of Guithavon Valley and Guithavon Road]

UDC Public Health Committee, 15 September 1936

page 501. ‘Moveable dwellings and camping grounds’. Clerk report on occasional fairs who ‘encamp’ on ground next to Peculiars’ chapel  [the chapel near the corner of Guithavon Valley and Guithavon Road] . Residents have complained ‘particularly owing to the noise of their steam organs and because of the untidy state in which they leave the ground’. Ask Essex County Council if any bye laws. ECC says there is one against ‘steam organ or any other musical instrument worked by mechanical means’ annoying residents, on land adjoining or in highway. Clerk asks instructions. Suggest that land too small and in wrong place. Recommend to Estates Committee that they be offered space at Rickstones Recreation Ground.

UDC Estates Committee, 15 October 1936

page 553. Can’t recommend fairs being allowed on Rickstones Recreation ground.

1937: Kelly’s directory

Gives the lord of manor of Witham and Newland as Charles Henry Copley Du Cane esquire (the Du Canes were previously at Braxted Park, but they were not there in the 1937 directory; though there were some Miss Du Canes at Great Totham and Wickham Bishops)


References & abbreviations:

R.H.Britnell, ‘Essex Markets Before 1350’ Essex Archaeology and History, pp.15-16.

R.H.Britnell, ‘The Making of Witham’, History Studies, i. [not referred to above, but is relevant]

Cal.Chart. = Calendars of Charter Rolls, H.M.S.O.

Cal.S.P.Dom. = Calendars of State Papers Domestic, H.M.S.O.

E.R.O. = Essex Record Office

M.Gervers (ed.), The Cartulary of the Knights of Jerusalem in England., Secunda Camera: Essex, O.U.P. for British Academy, 1982.

Kelly’s directories

B.A.Lees (ed.), Records of the Templars in England in the twelfth century, O.U.P., 1935.

P.Morant, The History and Antiquities of the County of Essex, ii, 1763-8.

Pigot’s directories

P.R.O. [TNA] = The National Archives [formerly Public Record Office]

Rec.Com. = Record Commissioners publications.

Appendix, Final Report, Royal Commission on Market Rights and Tolls, 1890/1.

Walker, W. Essex Markets and Fairs, E.R.O., 1981
[N.B. The schedule of medieval charters in this booklet (p.35) omits the Witham charters of c.1153-4, 1155, 1189 & 1199-1200, and only begins with those of 1212 and 1227].

White’s directories



Traffic Lights

Traffic lights in Witham



UDC 31 August 1931, page 498

‘Automatic signals. The question of the provision of automatic light signals at the Collingwood Road and Maldon Road corners was raised, when it was resolved to refer the matter to the Public Health Committee for consideration and report.’


Braintree and Witham Times, 1 October 1931, page 3

‘Automatic light signals. The provision of automatic light signals at Collingwood Road and Maldon Road corners was considered, having been referred to the committee from the Council. It was resolved to make no recommendation at present in this matter’.


UDC Public Health Committee, 8 May 1935

page 13. Pedestrian Crossing scheme still with Ministry of Transport. Council’s scheme for three crossings now likely to be considered in conjunct with County Council’s proposal for ‘traffic Control lights’ at junction of Newland Street and Maldon Road.


UDC Water, Highways and Works Committee, 12 June 1935.

page 46. Pedestrian Crossings. Letter from Ministry of Transport, in view of County Council proposal to put traffic signals at Maldon Road and Newland Street junction, don’t need three pedestrian crossings. They suggest the following. Recommend agreeing.

  1. Newland Street

(a) north of Mill lane, near Mr Shelley’s blacksmith’s shop (as suggested by UDC)

(b) junction with Maldon Road in conjunction with the traffic signals.

  1. Across Maldon Road in conjunction with the traffic signals.
  2. Across Collingwood Road at the junction with Newland Street.


UDC Water, Highways and Works Committee, 18 September 1935

page 127. Order from Ministry of Transport approving pedestrian crossings in Newland Street and Collingwood Road received. Find out when Essex County Council plan to put up traffic lights at Maldon Road corner, because crossing there is to go with them.


UDC Public Health Committee, 12 November 1935 page 179.

Re. plan number 823 illuminated advert at Mr Winch’s shop in Newland Street. Defer for observation in connection with traffic lighting.


UDC Water, Highways and Works Committee, 16 September 1936

page 515. Bus stops. Congestion caused by cars parking. Especially between Bellamy’s chemist and Maldon Road traffic lights. So need to get car park signs and put them up and seal the formal order as soon as possible.


Braintree and Witham Times, 15 July 1937

Traffic lights – Bench thinks not in right place, lots of drivers have said they can’t see them.


Braintree and Witham Times, 2 Sept 1937, p.4

Ref to traffic lights at Maldon Road junction.



John Newman of 35 The Avenue recalls that when he arrived in Witham in 1945, the only traffic lights were at the Maldon Road junction. The ones at Collingwood Road came later.

The Witham Volunteers, formed in 1798

The Witham Volunteer Corps, formed 1798

Not comprehensive, just bits


Essex Record Office L/U 3/2. Printed sheet kept in Lieutenancy papers, 1798. Transcript.

At a Meeting of the Inhabitants of WITHAM, held at the BLUE POSTS, on Thursday the 10th of May 1798, for the purpose of adopting proper measures for the Defence of the Country.

THOMAS KYNASTON, Esq. in the Chair.


FIRST.            That an Armed Association be formed with as much expedition as possible, consisting of a Company of Infantry, to be under the command of ROGER KYNASTON, Esq. and not to exceed Eighty Persons, nor be less that Sixty.

SECOND.       That such company be not called out, except in case of actual invasion, not be required to serve beyond the distance of five miles from Witham.

THIRD.           That each individual of such company shall provide his uniform, and bear his expences of every other kind, except arms, accoutrements, and ammunition, for which application will be made to government.

FOURTH.       That every man shall attend at the time and place appointed by his commanding officer for exercise, at least three days in the week; and that application be made to government, for a sufficient number of non-commissioned officers to teach such exercise.

FIFTH.           That every man at the time of his discharge from this association, shall deliver up his arms, accoutrements, and ammunition, to his commanding officer, or to some neighbouring magistrate.

SIXTH.           That thirteen persons be immediately elected members of this association, and as such, do subscribe their names to these resolutions; and that they, or any five of them, be a committee, authorized to admit other members in such manner, and on such terms and conditions, as to the majority of them shall seem most proper; and to make such further orders and regulations, as they shall think best calculated to promote the good intent of this association; and that they do immediately proceed to receive the names of such persons as are willing to become members of this association, and ballot for them the first opportunity; and that they do adjourn from time to time, as they shall find necessary.

SEVENTH.    That every member, at the time of his admission by the above committee, be called upon to pledge himself in the strongest terms, to yield a strict and willing obedience to his commanding officer, and to every rule and order of this association, and to declare himself determined to stand or fall with the Religion, Laws, and Liberty of the British Constitution.

The above resolutions being unanimously agreed to, the meeting proceeded to the choice of a committee, when the following persons being unanimously elected, subscribed their names, and pledged themselves in the words of the 7th resolution, viz.


THOMAS KYNASTON, Esq. for his Son;





  1. MILLER,








The thanks of the meeting were unanimously voted to the chairman, for bringing forward the above measure, and for his particular attention to the business of the day.

N.B. The above committee will meet at the BLUE POSTS INN, in Witham, on WEDNESDAY next, the 16th instant, precisely at six in the evening; when all persons willing to join the above association, are requested to attend, or send their names, in order that they may be ballotted for, agreeable to the above resolutions. 

WO 13/4321 1803-1813

Annual Pay list and return of Witham Company of Rifle volunteers

Printed forms. for each year. ‘To be sent to Sec at War, War Office London’. Last one is 1813

Headings calls them Witham Company of Rifle Volunteers.

25 Dec 1802 to 25 Dec 1803

[All exercised 20 total days so due 1s per day = £1]

[spaces for officers above Serjeant are blank]



John Crump

George Fenn

Thomas Dios Santos




Jeptheh Johnson

Alexander McCrea

John Foster

Joshua Price


Buglers [Drummers is crossed out and B written in]


1 James Dace

2 Geo Todd


Privates [63]


Firmin Potto

Thos Etherton

John Cowler

Saml White

William Beard

George Coe

Joseph Cowling

William Carter

Edward Turner

Nathaniel Potto

Joseph Sayer

Chas Windsor

Joseph Chalk

John Guiver

William Amos

Henry Branwhite

Samuel Coe

Edward Fuller

Benjamin Barrell

James Hutley

John Boultwood

John Ram

George Daniel

Benjamin Ram

Stephen Skinner

William Flanner

John Ramsey

Benjamin Sayer

William Perry

Joseph Hills

Abraham Johnson

John Coon

John Cowley

William Sams

John Cutts

Thomas Bambricke

Joseph True

John Mayhew

Benjamin Curtiss

Danvey[sic] Carter

Thomas Sayer

Thomas Brock

Samuel Rust

George Hammond

James Cole

William Aer[? may have mistyped this]

Henry Parker

Edward Ager

Isaac Warwicker

John White

John Johnson

John Borrett

Thomas Joslin

Thomas Chalk

Thomas Unwin

John Isaac

Edward Sly

William Emmens

Isaac Sly

James Succour

Thomas Horth

George Sayer


[There is also a clothing certificate saying they have all been issued with clothing]

Signed Chas Miller Capt Commandant of the Witham Rifle Corps

December 1812 – March 1813 [last list]

Witham Rifle Corps commanded by Captain Chas Miller. Total pay £21 15s.

Similar to last


Capt Chas Miller



Ed Aldridge

Jno Crump

Geo Fenn




Wm Perry

Jepthah Johnson

Tho Porter

Wm Sams




Geo Coe

Wm Carter

Firman Potto

Isaac Warwicker


Buglemen [drummers crossed out and this put instead]

1 Jas Dace

2 Wm Smith

3 Jas Turner


[67 names]

[Rate per day 1s. Due 5s total]

[No clothing list this time I think]



The Times, 29 August 1859, page 7 col e

‘Volunteer Rifle Corps. A meeting convened by Lord Rayleigh, is to be held at Witham, Essex, today (Monday) for the purpose of promoting the formation of a corps for that town and neighbourhood’.


The Times, 2 September 1859, page 7, col f

‘Volunteer Rifle Corps. A meeting has been held at Witham, Lord Rayleigh in the chair, to promote the formation of a volunteer corps in that neighbourhood. The noble lord stated that he was too old himself to enter into the corps, with any degree of activity or zeal, but if one were established he should be happy to subscribe something in aid of it. There was a great diversity of opinion as to the expediency of establishing rifle corps; but although at the present moment Louis Napoleon, as Emperor, might neither have the wish nor the intention to invade this country, yet it was impossible to say how soon England and France might be involved in war. If there were a war between the two countries, France would attempt to invade England, and England’s idea of invasion was very different from that entertained by France. Our idea of invasion was to take a country and keep it, while theirs was to take it and merely give us a box of the ears for beating them at Waterloo, not dreaming of retaining England, but of invading the country and striking some blow by which their vanity might be gratified. Whether this might happen in one year or 20 years it was impossible to say, but it was certain now that it was the inclination of the Emperor Napoleon to be friendly with England. A discussion might, however, arise from the congress which was now taking place, or, as he thought most likely, from affairs in the East. The greatest protection of England would be to show Napoleon that the gentry and middle classes of England would oppose any attempt at invasion en masse – that every one, in fact, would be a soldier. In consequence of the absence of Captain Luard, R.N., one of the promoters of the meeting, further proceedings were adjourned, but a cordial spirit was manifested in regard to the importance and desirability of the object.’


The Times, 4 October 1859, page 5, col e

‘Volunteer Rifle Corps … [includes lots from all over country] …Witham. A spirited speech has been delivered here by Captain Luard, RN, on the rifle corps topic. The gallant captain observed that he thought there would be no doubt as to the value of the companies which were being rapidly organised in every part of the kingdom. In former times, when dependence …[not all on this cutting]’


The Times, 20 October 1859, page 10, col b

‘Volunteer Corps … [includes lots from all over country] … Witham. The committee appointed in this town for raising a company of rifle volunteers in this locality are actively engaged in arranging the necessary preliminaries towards the successful accomplishment of this patriotic measure. The committee included Mr Charles Du Cane, M.P., Mr Sutton Western, M.P., and other resident members of the aristocracy; and there is little doubt, with such influential patronage, the corps will be both numerous and efficient’.


The Times, 31 October 1859, page 10, col e

‘Volunteer Corps … Witham. Mr Du Cane, M.P., presided at a meeting held here last Tuesday evening in reference to the formation of a company, and after an address from Captain Luard, R.N., 26 volunteers enrolled themselves’


The Times, 7 November 1859, page 12, col d

‘Volunteer Corps … Witham. From the report presented to an adjourned meeting, attended by Lord Rayleigh, Mr C S Western, M.P., Mr Du Cane, M.P., Captain Luard, Captain Stevens, Sir J P Wood, etc., it appears 38 gentlemen have volunteered as members of the rifle corps. Captain Luard, R.N., has been requested to undertake the command of the corps, and Mr Charles Wood the post of second in command. A subscription was then and there opened. Lord Rayleigh promised to increase his donation of £50 to £100 when the corps numbers [???] effectives; Mr T B Western £30; Mr Sutton Western, M.P., £10; Mr Charles Du Cane, M.P., £25; Captain Luard, £25; Sir J P Wood, £10 10s; Mr J H Blood, £10 10s, to be increased to 21£ when the corps numbers 60 members’.


The Times, 27 December 1859, page 9, col b

‘The Volunteer Movement … Witham. The services of the company formed have been officially accepted. Drill has been steadily prosecuted, notwithstanding the late severe weather, and in a few days the volunteers will appear in uniform’.



‘10th Essex (Witham) Volunteer Rifle Corps 1859-1862’

(Transcribed from typescript account by Maurice Smith. Given by him to JG and now in ERO as part of T/P 506)




When Captain William Garnham Luard, R.N. returned to his home, Witham Lodge in February 1866 he was given a hero’s welcome by the Townsfolk. Newland Street was decorated with triumphal arches and ‘Welcome Home’ banners. The 10th Essex (Witham) Volunteer Rifle Corps under the command of Captain Blood were drawn up as a. guard of honour near the George Inn. It had been through the efforts of Captain Luard that the Volunteers had been brought back into existence.


In August 1859 handbills were distributed in the town inviting interested people to a meeting at the Literary Institute in Newland Street. Unfortunately at the meeting on 29th August, William Luard, the chief mover in this scheme, was unable to attend. Little progress was made beyond arranging for a book to be kept at the police station in Guithavon Street in which those wishing to ;join could enter their names, and the meeting was adjourned for a month.


At the end of September another meeting was held with Lord Rayleigh in the chair. William Luard’s resolution was agreed. It was ‘that in the opinion of this meeting it is desirable to establish from the town of Witham and surrounding neighbourhood a Volunteer Rifle Corps under the provision of Act 44 George III Chapter 54.’ Disappointment was expressed at this meeting that no names had been entered in the book at the police station.


A meeting was held on 25th October to give information to those wishing to join. It was able to report that progress had been made as there were thirty six enrolments.    This encouraged the calling of’ a further meeting to elect a committee and to request William Luard to take command with Charles Wood as the second officer in charge.             A subscription list was opened to provide funds to inaugurate the Corps. It was decided to use Broad Mead as a parade ground.


From its formation the Corps showed great keenness. Despite the severe winter weather several members attended up to 30 drills during the first three weeks of December. Since then there were five drills each week and the average attendance was 23 members out of the total of 30.




At the beginning of the year the Corps were keyed up for their first parade in full uniform on 19th January. It was a disappointment when William Luard was forced to postpone it due to the death of a relative. The great day came on 2nd February when the parade was held at midday. There was a full muster with the exception of Charles Wood who was unavoidably absent. After they were dressed off by height the commission was read appointing William Luard and Charles Wood as their officers. J Cook and J W Butler were appointed as sergeants.


Their uniform was admired by all who had gathered to see the parade. It consisted of tunic, trousers and cap of very dark green cloth trimmed with black braid. After addressing a few words to the corps, William Luard commenced his first drill which at first caused some confusion as his words of command were based on navy procedure and differed in some degree with those of the army drill sergeant. However, the drill movements were carried out smartly which together with their neat turnout earnt the praise of the watching crowd. Further parade drills were arranged for Thursdays at mid-day.


For their first church parade which took place on the following Sunday they were supported by the band of the Chelmsford Volunteer Rifle Corps. To their rousing tunes the Witham Volunteers marched from Guithavon Street to St Nicolas church.


William Luard visited Hythe to undergo training as the commanding officer. By the time his first rifle drill with the Corps commenced on 8th March, the strength of the Corps had advanced to 44 members and 9 or 10 further applications had been made. It was unfortunate that the weather was so inclement for the first rifle drill. There was a biting March wind and the ground was sodden after a fall of snow. Handling their rifles was made difficult through numbed fingers and they presented a rather woebegone appearance. They stuck it out for half an hour and were relieved when another snow storm brought the drill to a halt. They no doubt hastened away to seek the shelter of warmer and drier surroundings.


J Cook and J W Butler gave a supper to celebrate their appointment as sergeants. During the evening Superintendent Catchpool of the Witham Police offered to give instruction with a view to the Corps forming a band. Aware of Superintendent Catchpool’s experience in brass band playing this offer was accepted and he soon had some enthusiastic recruits.


During April there was great concentration in the drills to perfect the corps’ mastery of manual and platoon exercises. In view of the drill sergeant’s departure at the end of the month, drills were held in both the mornings and evenings. The next stage of their training was position drill under their commander.


The Corps at the beginning of June heard with great regret that they were to lose their commander and the founder of their corps. Captain William Luard, RN, had been recalled to naval duties to take command of one of her Majesty’s ships.


On Monday, 16th June, the Corps, headed by their band, marched from their headquarters to Witham Lodge, the home of William Luard, for their final drill under his command. For two hours they engaged in field movements and skirmishes, enlivened by the firing of blank cartridges. At 2 p.m. a sumptuous luncheon was provided for the Corps, band and friends. After the loyal toast J Cook, the senior sergeant, proposed that Charles Wood should take over the duties as commander and this was agreed unanimously. The corps and the band marched back to the town at 5 p.m. Considering the shortness of the time since it had been formed, it was agreed that the band had acquitted itself very well.


Before returning to his naval duties, William Luard was anxious to see his corps shooting with live ammunition. He fulfilled his wish by obtaining a special permit from the War Office. Unfortunately one difficulty arose in the range of the targets. As the hay had not been gathered in, they were 300 yards distant from the target instead of 150 yards. This probably explains why only one shot hit the bull. This was fired by W Kershaw in the last round and gave him the highest score of 9 points (bull, centre, and four outers). In fact, out of 143 rounds fired 87 of them missed the target.


Prior to William Luard’s departure Mr J H Blood entertained the Corps. After the usual parade about 50 sat down to a luncheon at 2 p.m. in a specially erected marquee. The proceedings were enlivened by many toasts. During the afternoon the band performed some lively airs in fine style. 5 p.m. was the time for the guests to leave for home after a pleasant time together.


The following twenty members of the corps had completed their preliminary firing and at the end of July commenced target practice:


E Barwell

W Kershaw

T Abrey

W B Blood (Ensign)

E Groves

G S Gimson

E C Smith

G Harvey

G Gaywood

H Garrett

S T Davies

J W Butler (Sergeant)

C Smith

E Kentfield

A Thorn

J Gardiner

R S Cheek

J E Mann

J Cook (Sergeant)

J Roberts.


W B Blood, included above, had been appointed as second in command following C Wood’s promotion.


The highlight in August was the sham fight at Hylands Park, Chelmsford, when the County of Essex showed how well they had supported the Volunteer Rifle movement. At about 3 30 p.m. the artillery, cavalry and infantry companies were lined up in their various stations. After a salute by the artillery was given to the inspecting officer, Lt Col Wood, he inspected the lines of the companies. The troops marched twice round the park with their bands playing. Next they were deployed to engage in evolutions [sic] and skirmishes which filled with excitement upwards of 20,000 spectators. They rushed about the park trying to view everything at once and miss nothing. At the conclusion of the proceedings the men cheered their officers. They then piled their arms so that they could enjoy some well earned refreshments. Finally they marched smartly to the station and took train to their respective destinations.


Less than a year after their formation they were called upon to show the results of their training. At the end of August they were officially inspected by Col Ibbetson. Unfortunately they had little time to prepare as the members were not notified of the inspection until the previous afternoon and in consequence only thirty-one were able to parade. However the inspecting officer expressed himself as satisfied with the attainment.


It was not all hard work and drills. There was a social side to the activities of the Corps. Some of the local gentry vied with each other in entertaining them. At the beginning of September the Corps with their band were invited to luncheon by Sir J W Wood to his residence at Rivenhall Place.


On 1st October they were invited to Felix Hall. At 10.45 a.m. they mustered and after receiving their ammunition they formed up in fours and the martial music of their band began their six mile march to Kelvedon. The music of the band attracted the inhabitants of Kelvedon who watched them march down the main street. They called a halt at the Star Inn to quench the thirst aroused by their march from Witham. They then retraced their steps through the town watched by many of the inhabitants. When they arrived at the Hall, Birch Western, T S Western, MP, Col Western and other distinguished guests were waiting to greet them. This they acknowledged by presenting arms and a march past.


Their fitness after the route march was demonstrated in the carrying out of a series of manual and platoon exercises, and a variety of field movements and the climax of their programme was the firing of their blank cartridges. Following prolonged cheering they entered the hall and did justice to the luncheon. After the man courses, while the wine and fruit were being enjoyed various healths were honoured, commencing with the Queen and including the 10th Essex (Witham) Volunteer Rifle Corps and Lieut Wood. The health of the host was proposed by Lieut Wood, together with the thanks of the Corps for the entertainment provided. It was growing dark when the bugle sounded to summon them from the beautiful grounds and garden to march back to Witham which they reached at 7 p.m.


A similar entertainment was provided by Lord Rayleigh who had retained his interest in the Corps since chairing the meeting when William Luard proposed the formation of the Corps. He had generously made a subscription of £50 and promised a further £50 when the strength of the Corps reached sixty members.


Monday 15th October was a very wet day and when the Corps left Witham at noon they were a motley company wearing great coats, cloaks, sheets and other materials to protect their uniforms from the driving rain. Within a mile of Terling, conscious of their unmilitary appearance they divested themselves of their odd assortment of coverings and to the strains of their band they marched smartly into Lord Rayleigh’s grounds at Terling Hall. His Lordship suggested on account of the weather they should forego their programme of drills and evolutions. With true fortitiude they carried on and then enjoyed the hospitality set before them.


Before Christmas the progress of the band under the instruction of Superintendent Catchpool had reached the stage at which they felt capable of presenting a concert. The schoolroom of the British School in Maldon Road was full and there were several prominent people from the neighbourhood in the audience. There were fourteen performers and Miss Catchpool showed she shared her father’s musicianship by her talent as soloist and accompanist at the piano. The programme was:



Part One
Band Nazer March
Duet Santa Lucia
Band Beautiful Star
Song, Mr Evans Volunteer Song
Band Come where thy love lies dreaming
Solo, Pianoforte Carnival of Venice
Duet Ever of thee
Band Inkerman March
Part Two:
Band Charlestown Quadrilles
Song Their National Defences
Cornopean and Pianoforte Waltz
Song, Mr Evans
Band Sleep gentle lady
Duet Castanet and gay guitar



At the conclusion of the concert performers and friends walked up the road to the Angel Inn where they were provided with a substantial supper.




In January the 10th Essex (Witham) Volunteer Rifle Corps held their first annual meeting. They were pleased to report a balance in their funds of £81 12s 7d. It was agreed that drills should take place on Tuesday and Thursdays at 7 a.m. and on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 6 p.m.


They were anxious to raise their numbers to company strength and one attempt to accomplish this was by organising a recruiting march to Kelvedon on 11th March. They hoped to persuade gentlemen in Kelvedon to enroll. The plan was unsuccessful. The Kelvedon gentlemen considered Witham was too far away for them to attend drills and they did not think they could muster sufficient volunteers to warrant their own drill sergeant.


In June the Braintree and Bocking Advertiser listing the names of the members who were engaged in target practice as: Thorne





Smith, J




Ensign Blood





Smith, E C



Sergeant Cook


At the paraded muster on 24th June the Corps were disappointed at the announcement made by Lieut Wood. He advised that he had been carrying on with his Volunteer duties against the advice of his doctor and that ill health had now forced him to resign. He invited them all to be his guests at an amateur theatrical performance to take place in the dining hall at Rivenhall Place.


Amateur theatricals were then in current fashion and the residents of the larger houses in the locality such as Rivenhall Place, Braxted Hall and the Groves combined to put on performances for the amusement of themselves and their friends. The Corps attended the dress rehearsal the night before the main performance for more distinguished guests. After they had watched The Loan of a Lover and Kenilworth, a Burlesque, they sat down to supper in the hall.


The Corps and the Witham inhabitants were delighted that the third and last Battalion Review of the year was to be held at Witham. This took place on 10th October in Mill Field. About seven or eight former Volunteers could recall taking party in a previous Battalion Review at Witham in 1803. Mill Field near the centre of the town with an area of 20 acres was a suitable venue. With its slope and raised carriage way it enabled the spectators, between four and five thousand, to have a good view of the manoevres of the Battalion. The Witham inhabitants were proud to watch the Witham Corps and Band lead the Battalion on to the field at 10.30 a.m. and to take part in the display.


The Corps’ devotion to their training was appreciated and the local gentry and tradesmen raised funds for a subscription dinner. The Corps paraded at 2 p.m. on 28th October for an hour and a half’’s drill. Prizes for a shooting competition were then presented. At 4 p.m. they marched to the White Hart Inn to enjoy the dinner given in recognition of the time and effort they gave to their duties. A very happy time was enjoyed by a company of seventy.




At the second annual general meeting in February the results of the year’s training in rifle shooting were announced. Twenty-nine had commenced at the beginning of the year and three had left during the year. The remainder were placed in the following classes:

1st Class: 10                      2nd Class: 14               3rd Class: 2

Messrs Harvey, Barwell and Thomas as well as being in the First Class had achieved the additional status of ‘marksmen’.


The Prize Meeting for Rifle Shooting in 1862 was held on 8th October. It had been put off from the previous day due to heavy rain. The conditions were still not ideal as there was a strong wind blowing from left to right. The first competition was for the third class entrants for Sergeant Cook’s prize. Six contestants had three shots at 150, 250 and 300 yards. The hits and points were added together making a possible score of 36. Mr Cheek won with 17.


The Challenge Cup was at distances of 200, 300 and 600 yards with three shots at the first two distances and five shots at the longest. The only bull was scored by Mr Goodday who was equal with Mr Wilson after two rounds but could not hit the target at 600 yards. Mr Wilson won by scoring 19 out of a possible 44.


A Battalion Review took place in Witham on 19th October. The effective strength of the 1st Essex Battalion was 700 but due to the lateness of the season and the unsettled weather not more than one third attended. Those present were:

Off Sgt R and F Band
1st Engineers (Heybridge) 2 5 60 20
6th Colchester 2 3 17
10th Witham 1 2 28 11 + 1 bugler
12th Braintree 2 2 14 12
23rd Maldon 1 4 30 15


As the Review was being held at Witham it had been planned to give the 10th Essex (Witham) Volunteers the honour of acting as Battalion Band. Unfortunately this notification came too late. The bandsmen were also effective members of their Corps and had taken their place in the ranks. The band of the 1st Engineers (Heybridge) was therefore substituted.


Shortly after 11 a.m. the Battalion headed by the bands marched to Town End Field on the Colchester Road which gave them an extensive area for their manoevres. When these were completed they marched to the west end of the town before going to the White Hart Inn for refreshments.


The afternoon programme in Mill Field commenced at 2 p.m. and at this time the shopkeepers shut their premises. The number of spectators was not so great as it might have been owing to the inclement weather. The strong and cold wind was particularly inconvenient to the ladies in their long flowing gowns. All were thanked for their attendance by Lt Col Sir Claude de Crespigny after the customary drills and evolutions had taken place.


In the evening the 10th Essex met for supper at 8 p.m. at the White Hart Inn. The purpose of the evening was the distribution of prizes won at the rifle butts and the presentation of a testimonial to Ensign Blood who reluctantly was leaving the Corps. A convivial evening was ensured in the singing of songs and the drinking of numerous toasts. It was after midnight before all the guests departed.


The services of the band were in demand. In November contributions from the band were interspersed among the readings at the programme of ‘Penny Readings’ which were held at the Literary Institute in Newland Street. The variety that this brought to the programme added enjoyment to the evening. On Christmas Eve, Christmas morning and during the evening of Boxing Day the band paraded through the town and gave a programme of music that was appropriate to the Christmas Festival.


Essex Weekly News, 10 December 1869, page 3

Long report of ‘Annual Supper of the 10th Essex (Witham) Volunteers’. See photocopy in newspaper files.


Chelmsford Chronicle, 10 December 1869, page 3

Long report of ‘Annual Supper of the 10th Essex (Witham) Volunteers’. See photocopy in newspaper files.


Chelmsford Chronicle, 21 January 1870, page 8

Long report of ‘Amateur Dramatic Performance in aid of the funds of the Tenth Essex Rifle Volunteers’ at Witham.


Chelmsford Chronicle, 11 August 1871, page 6

Long report of Oddfellows gala at Witham. See xerox in newspaper files.

‘The Loyal Guithavon Lodge of the Manchester Unity of Oddfellows’. In the grounds of Witham Lodge, the residence of Mrs Luard. Threw the park and gardens open to the public. Marquees. …

Public dinner in evening by Mr Brown of White Hart. But only 40 to 50 gentlemen sat down. Names of some of those present. Chairman Rev B G Luard of Danbury. Speech included … Touching the reserve forces, he said every inhabitant of this county would regret that the command of the volunteers is about to be transferred form the Lord Lieutenant (Sir Thomas Western) who was well beloved by all, but it was in deference to a wish, expressed throughout the country that there should be more solidity in our forces, and that the reserve forces should be all under one head, the military commander-in-chief. He coupled with the toast the name of Major Savill, who had been long connected with the constitutional force, the militia, and whom they were glad to see present, looking better after his recent indisposition. (Hear, hear). The volunteers, who had lately received a slap in the face, would be represented by Captain Blood, who had done much to promote the efficiency of the Witham corps. (Applause).

Major Savill briefly responded, and

Captain Blood, In reference to the observation of the chairman, respecting the criticisms of the inspecting officer upon the 1st Essex Administrative Battalion at the annual inspection last week, said he must confess it was an unfortunate position, but the officers had no fault to find with the remarks of the inspecting officer. The deficiencies of the volunteer force, however, were not attributable to the volunteers themselves so much as to the public outside. They gave their time and attention to their duties, and whenever there were greater facilities extended to them their efficiency would be immeasurably greater’. …


Chelmsford Chronicle, 3 December 1875, page 5

See xerox in newspaper files.

‘Annual supper and meeting of the 10th Essex (Witham) Rifle Volunteers’. Annual event. White Hart Hotel. Capital repast. Corps ‘mustered almost to a man’. Others supporting them. Some named. Presided over by the commander Captain Blood. He gave toasts etc. Said ‘tonight they had with them a gentleman who was now a fellow parishioner, who had won honour for himself and credit for the town to which he belonged. He alluded to Admiral Luard. (Applause)’. Admiral Luard said he was ‘very glad to be among them once more after a long absence’. Song by Col Sergt Groves. Lieut Cook proposed the bishop etc. Good feeling between denominations in the town.

Chair gave account of year: ‘In the first place their corps would be 16 years old on the 9th of next month. Their grant for the present year was £98. They did not go to Harwich this year, for they found that it was too expensive, but they had been to Aldershot, and by going to the latter place they had a good balance left in hand. Their uniforms, however, were not looking very respectable, and so they should be looking round their friends for new ones next year. He was not satisfied with their attendance at position drill, and he hoed next year they would attend to this little matter. they might depend upon it it was not the wind that caused all bad shooting – the fault lay behind the rifle. He had hoped to see sixty men of the town belong to the corps, but he did not see his way clear to that number yet. He was glad that Witham men held their own when at camp with the rest, and he was proud that at the test of strength a given number of the 10th Essex could pull any other equal number over a certain mark.’

Admiral Luard distributed prizes. Lots, with names of members. Songs. More toasts. ‘A cordial vote of thanks was passed to Miss Crump and Messrs Hutley and Shoobridge, who kindly gave he use of their fields for the “butts”, and the pleasant evening was brought to a close a few minutes after twelve o’clock’.


Essex County Chronicle, 19 January 1917

page 6, see xerox on newspaper file. ‘The VTC. The first drill took place at Cullen’s seed warehouse, when there were 15 on parade. Lt Christie and Mr W W Boulton addressed the members, who ere drilled by Corpl Willett, RE. Several new members have joined.’


Essex County Chronicle, 14 February 1919

page 5, see xerox on newspaper file. ‘Volunteer dinner at Witham’. Long report. ‘Col P E Laurence JP, entertained the members of the Witham Platoon, 7th Essex Volunteers, to dinner at the Public Hall’ and guests. Pt Collingwood Hope, KC, of Hatfield, couldn’t come – praise for his humility in being a Private because of lack of time. He had sent in an amusing letter about the early days, the drill etc. Lieut W W Boulton, former Major of Volunteers, present and praised, now in Horse Guards. Now owner of Braxted Park, congratulations on acquiring it. Congratulations to Lt Pelly and Lt Taber. Formed in ‘dark and serious days, when the country was in danger of invasion’. Must be grateful to them and the risks they took. Co S M Stiff presented two enlarged photos of the platoon to Lieut. W Taber their commandant. Lieut E R Green Adjutant Capt B Green. Asst Adjutant Lieut A M Bradhurst. Musical programme, including Mr N L Howlett ARCO, and ‘Mr Frank Moore (who recited Conan Doyle’s ode on the Volunteer’, Sg B Deal and Mr Runnacles. 


Note from Ian Hook Jan 2004 about WW1 Volunteers


The Volunteers were a form of Home Guard, parading locally for, generally, local defence jobs, e.g. trench digging and road block manning. They grew out of the enthusiasm of citizens, particularly in football and athletic clubs, to play their part in the war at home.

From an ad hoc basis they were brought under Government control as “Volunteer Training Corps” or VTC’s, later as Volunteer Regiments (eg 2nd Essex Volunteer Regiment) and later still as Volunteer Battalions of County Regiments (eg 2nd Volunteer Battalion Essex Regiment) which are not to be confused with the 1881-1908 Volunteer Battalions.

Membership of the VTCs/VRs/VBs was voluntary except after the introduction of conscription, men who had been examined and accepted were supposed to parade with the Volunteers to learn some military arts e.g. drill and weapon training, prior to being called up for full time service.

For Essex volunteers there was much work to do on the trench lines across Essex and around London and, later, some Corps were mobilised for duty on the East Coast after success of the German offensive in March 1918 (and its successors) brought about Haig’s “Backs to the wall” message. This relieved troops to go to France and was combined with the lowering of the age limit for overseas service to 18½.

Typically, the Government blew hot and cold about the cost and political implications of having armed and organised civilians in the UK (particularly in the wake of the Russian Revolution) and support was threatened at different times, even during the period of part mobilisation in 1918!.


Town criers

Some town criers in Witham


1728 Congregational church

Paid Richard Wright 6d ‘for crying the windows’ and then Samuel Clark 6s 5d ‘for mending the windows’ (M L Smith A Brief History of Witham Congregational C hurch, page 7)



Year Original entry
1874 Tyler Wm. cowkeeper, crier & bill poster
1878 Tyler William, cowkeeper, crier & bill poster
1886 Wood John, town crier
1890 Wood George, town crier
1895 Wood George, town crier & bill poster
1899 Butler John, town crier & bill poster, Bridge street
1902 Butler John, town crier & bill poster, Bridge street
1906 Butler John, town crier & bill poster, Bridge street



William Tylor

1841 census, HO 107/343/17, f.26, Maldon Road

[south of White Hart]

William Tylor 30 Shoe m born in Essex
Hannah Tylor 30 born in Essex
Harriett Tylor 8 born in Essex
Maria Tylor 6 born in Essex
James Tylor 4 born in Essex
Henry Tylor 1 born in Essex

1851 census, HO 107/1783, ff.179-180, pp.17-18, schedule 64, Maldon Road

[south of Baptist chapel]

William Tylor Head M 40
Hannah Tylor Wife M 43
Harriett Tylor Dau U 19
James Tylor Son U 15 Boot maker born Essex, Witham
Henry Tylor Son U 12 Errand boy born Essex, Witham
Mary A Tylor Dau U 6 Scholar born Essex, Witham
Thomas W Tylor Son U 6 Scholar born Essex, Witham

1861 census, RG9/1107, f.80, p.19, schedule 99, Newland Street

[just below Notts Yard]

William Tylor Head M 52 Bootmaker and town cryer born Essex, Kelvedon
Charlotte Tylor Wife M 44 born Essex, Abberton

1871 census, RG 10/1695, f.21, p.6, schedule 28, King’s yard

[now Kings Chase]

William Tylor Head M 60 Cowkeeper, town crier, bill poster born Essex, Kelvedon
Charlotte Tylor Wife M 53 born Essex, Abberton
Frederick Harper Servant 15 Cow boy born Essex, Witham


1874 Tyler Wm. cowkeeper, crier & bill poster
1878 Tyler William, cowkeeper, crier & bill poster

1881 census, RG 11/1809, f.41, p.9, schedule 45, Guithavon Street, private house

William Tylor Head M 72 Retired dairyman born Essex, Kelvedon
Charlotte Tylor Wife M 62 Wife born Essex, Abberton

1891 census, RG 12/1425, f.34, p.7, schedule 43, Guithavon Street

(between school and corner of Newland Street)

Charlot H Tylor Head Wid 69 Living on own means born Essex, Abberton


George Wood

1881 census, RG 11/1809, f.4, p.2, schedule 10, Bridge Street

James Wood Head M 63 Superannuated police constable born Essex, Heybridge
Matilda Wood Wife M 66 born Essex, Witham
George Wood Son U 40 Cordwainer born Essex, St Peters, Maldon
Emma Wood Granddau 15 Pupil teacher born Essex, Southminster


1886 Wood John, town crier
1890 Wood George, town crier
1895 Wood George, town crier & bill poster

1891 census, RG 12/1425, f.42, p.24, schedule 162

George Wood Head Single 50 Shoemaker born Essex, Maldon

Fairs, 1891

Re the proposed (and eventually successful) abolition of Witham’s fairs, the following note is included in P.R.O. HO 45/9835/B10169 (Victoria)

‘I Certify that Copies of this Notice have been posted by me at the usual Posting places in the Parish of Witham and have remained so posted during three successive weeks.

[signed] George Wood, Town Crier, Witham, 20 March 1891’.


John Butler [didn’t look further back]

1861 census, RG 9/1007, f.4, p.2, folio 4, schedule 9, Bridge Street

John William Butler Head M 36 Shoemaker born Essex, Witham
Mary Ann Butler Wife M 39 Wife of ditto born Essex, Witham
John William Butler Son U 16 Shoemaker born Essex, Witham
Eliza Butler Dau 10 Scholar born Essex, Witham
Harry Butler Son 8 Scholar born Essex, Witham
Frederick Butler Son 6 Scholar born Essex, Witham
Walter Butler Son 3 Scholar born Essex, Witham
Elizabeth Jane Butler Dau 1 Infant born Essex, Witham
Susan Butler Mother Wid 66 Nurse born Essex, Terling

1871 census, RG 10/1695, f.10, p.12, folio 65, Bridge Street

John Wm Butler Head M 46 Boot maker born Essex, Witham
Mary Ann Butler Wife 49 born Essex, Witham
William John Butler SOn U 27 Boot maker born Essex, Witham
Eliza Butler Dau U 20 Dress maker born Essex, Witham
Harry Butler Son U 18 Boot maker born Essex, Witham
Walter Butler Son U 13 Labourer born Essex, Witham
Elizabeth Butler Dau 10 Scholar born Essex, Witham
Robert Butler Son 8 Scholar born Essex, Witham
Susan Butler Mother W 77 born Essex, Halstead

1881 census, RG 11/1809, f.4, p.2, schedule 7, Bridge Street

[between river bridge and Morning Star]

John Wm Butler Head M 56 Boot maker born Essex, Witham
Mary Ann Butler Wife M 59 born Essex, Witham
John Wm Butler S Widr 37 Boot maker born Essex, Witham
Elizabeth J Catler[?] D M 21 Wife of a gardener [deleted] born Essex, Witham
Robert Butler S U 19 Boot maker born Essex, Witham

1891 census, RG 12/1425, f.6, p.5, schedule 32, Bridge Street

John W Butler Head Widr 66 Shoemaker (neither employer nor employee) born Essex, Witham
William J Butler Son Widr 46 Shoemaker (neither employer nor employee) born Essex, Witham
Rose T Butler Niece 7 born Essex, Witham
Myra Butler Niece 6 born Essex, Witham
Lydia Ward Visitor S 30 born Essex, Wethersfield
Ethel Ward Visitor 3 born Essex, Braintree
Celia Ward Visitor 1 born Essex, Braintree

1901 census, RG 13/1725, f.5, p.2, schedule 8, Bridge Street

John Wm Butler Widr Widr 76 Shoe maker (own account) born Essex, Witham
Wm Jno Butler Son M 56 Shoe maker (own account) born Essex, Witham
Lydia Butler Dau in law M 41 born Essex, Wethersfield
Ethel Butler Gdau 13 born Essex, Braintree
Cecilia Butler Gdau 10 born Essex, Braintree
Baden[?] Jo Butler Son 7 mo born Essex, Witham



1899 Butler John, town crier & bill poster, Bridge street
1902 Butler John, town crier & bill poster, Bridge street
1906 Butler John, town crier & bill poster, Bridge street


Braintree and Witham Times 3 December 1931, page 2

page 7 ‘A Miscellany by Nomad. The trade or practice of Town Crier has passed away in a practical sense, although one or two towns still appoint a “crier” purely for traditional reasons. Town criers … used to “cry” auctioneers’ sales, concerts, or any event which the public were expected to attend. …

John Butler. “The original caption says “Mr John Butler, Witham’s last Town Crier. Reproduction by Butcher’s Studios”.

Witham’s last town crier was Mr John Butler, or “Lord Paget” as he was familiarly known. He succeeded a crier named George Wood. “Lord Paget” was a shoemaker by trade, and with Mr Joe Pluck was considered the best “snobber” in the town [Pluck was also a shoemaker]. His voice was in keeping with his frame, namely, on the big side. His stentorian preamble of “O yez! O yez! O yez! This is to give notice” etc. quickly drew a crowd. His fee was 1s 6d per announcement, but if Chipping Hill was included he tacked on an extra shilling. “’Butler bore a striking resemblance to Lord Paget, an MP of the day, and in conversation always upheld the views of this peer. By virtue of his shoe-mending trade he was often dubbed “Lord Patchit” while children would call after him “Patchit, cut it, cart it, stack it and thatch it”. He was usually addressed as “My lord” instead of “Mr Butler”. “Lord Paget” passed away about 25 years ago at a ripe old age, and the office of Witham town crier died with him.’




The surname of Witham


Surnames in England became fixed only about 600 years ago, in about the 1300s. Before that, children didn’t take a surname from their parents. They would take it from something else like where they lived or their job or what they looked like.


So someone who now has a surname Witham could be descended from someone who lived in Witham in around the 1300s, who had decided to refer to themselves as ‘of Witham’. And then when soon afterwards it became customary to hand the surname down, their children were called this too, and then dropped the ‘of’. The children and their descendants could well have lived somewhere else entirely.


So if somebody has the surname Witham today, their ancestors may have last been connected with Witham in about 1300. In the Essex Witham, nothing from their time survives today except possibly a fragment of the church.


There are several places called Witham in England. I’ve taken this from BT

  1. WITHAM { – ESSEX}
  2. WITHAM { Warminster – WILTSHIRE}





Some strikes in Witham

Not comprehensive, just oddments

Also search Interviews


Farmworkers, 19th century

See :

Arthur Brown, Poverty and Prosperity, etc


19 May 1876, Chelmsford Chronicle, page 2

‘Hatfield Peverel. A meeting was held at this place on Saturday the 6th instant, in connection with the NALU, when a large number of agricultural labourers assembled to hear an address by Mr Moxon, district secretary, who spoke for upwards of an hour and a half. Great attention was paid to the speaker, and all seemed greatly interested and wished Mr Moxon to pay another visit as soon as he could. A petition against the enclosure of commons was submitted to the meeting and adopted unanimously. A collection was also made in aid of those men who are on strike at Witham. At the close of the meeting several joined the union, and several others promised to join at the next contribution meeting’.


2 June 1876, Chelmsford Chronicle, page 6

‘Agricultural labourers’ strike at Witham, Essex.

The following correspondence is published in the Daily News. Sir, The Chelmsford Chronicle of yesterday sys there was a meeting on the 6th at Hatfield Peverel, in connection with the National Agricultural Labourers’ Union, when a collection was made for the men on strike at Witham. I think it but just to myself and to the National Agricultural Labourers’ Union, that the public should know how the strike came about. On the 25th of April I was asked to raise the wages from 14s. and 15s. per week to 15s. and 16s., and was told that my neighbours were willing to do so, if I would set the example. I told the men that as I had been so unwell for the last four months as to be unable to attend to business, I could not take the lead. On the 28th, pay day, I was again asked the advance, but again refused to take the lead, but said I should be willing to do as others did. On Saturday, the 29th, without giving me any notice, all the men except one absented themselves, so that there were eight horses with no-one to feed or work them, and a wheat stack partly threshed left uncovered. On Monday, 1st May, some of the men came for tools and wished to see me. I saw one (a horseman), he expressed his sorrow for what was done, but said as he belonged to the Union he was obliged, under threats, to leave. I asked him if they were acting under their own feelings or by the advice of the secretary of the union, and he said by the advice of the secretary to the Union. I offered him his place again, which I consider worth 16s. per week, as he is paid extra when drilling, but he said he dare not come unless I gave him the other 2d. per day. I have since received the enclosed letter, with rules, from Mr. Moxon, of the National Agricultural Labourers’ Union, and can only say that I wish rule eight had been applied; it appears to me a very just one.

Truly yours, Joseph Foster, Blunts Hall, Witham, May 20’.

‘Witham, Essex, May 6. Sir, In reply to yours now to hand I beg to inform you that the men did not leave your service through advice received from me, in fact they had left your service before I knew anything about it, which is contrary to the rules of the association. With regard to notice, the men say that they asked you for an advance of wages the week previous, which constitutes a week’s notice legally, as it gives an employer of labour to understand unless their demand is conceded to, their contract of service is at an end; therefore the case was laid before the committee, and although the men had broken the rules of the society the committee considered their demand a just and moderate one, and decided to support the men until they obtained an advance of 2d. per day or employment elsewhere. I am myself very much opposed to strikes, but what other alternative had the men left them? I can assure you that the men speak highly of you and would be very willing to return to their work again if the 2d. per day was given as asked, and I assure you if you can arrange, in an honest and straightforward manner, an amicable settlement to the dispute in question, I should be pleased to do so. Allow me to remain, yours respectfully.

James Moxon, District Secretary, ‘National Agricultural Labourers’ Union.

Mr Foster.’


18 April 1879, Essex Weekly News, page 6

‘Labourers’ Union. On Good Friday there was a gathering of members and friends at tea at the British School-room under the presidency of the Rev J Barton Dadd [Witham Congregational church] when the District Secretary (Mr Moxon), who is relinquishing his office on account of the recent action of Mr Arch, was presented with a valuable gold Albert chain. Effective addresses were delivered by the Chairman, Mr R W Dixon, Mr Hy Garrett, and others’.

22 June 1933

page 6 ‘Link with Joseph Arch. Death of Mr Abraham Whybrew at Witham

It is with regret that we record the death of Mr Abraham Whybrew, one of the oldest members of the Witham Peculiar People, by whose death a link with that great-hearted worker for the agricultural labourer, Joseph Arch, is severed.

Mr Whybrew, who was 83 years of age, had been ill for about a month. Heart trouble hastened the end, which came on Sunday.

Born in Rivenhall, Mr Whybrew was one of the real old school, beginning work on a farm at an early age. He was born in some cottages near Hoo Hall, at which farm he worked for many years. It was during the time he worked at the Hall that he heard Joseph Arch speak at Witham on topics concerning the agricultural worker.

Joseph Arch travelled all over East Anglia, advocating that the farm workers should band together in their efforts to obtain a fair wage. eventually he managed to found the Agricultural Workers Union, which still exists. Doubtless many of the older generation still remember him.

Mr Whybrew became keenly interested in the movement whilst still a young man, and he was one of the first members of the union in the district. Farm workers, in the end, came out on strike for more wages, which, it might be added, they eventually got, but Mr Whybrew himself never went back to the land.

Fifty six years ago he came to Witham, commencing work at the tanyard. he continued there until 1920, when he went into retirement.

For sixty five years he was a local preacher, ministering the gospel in many parts of Essex, including Rivenhall, Kelvedon, Witham and all the surrounding districts. Many times he conducted open-air meetings, which in those days were more popular than they are today.

In 1881 he married at Witham, living in Mill Lane, and later at Moat farm, Chipping Hill, for upwards of thirty years.

He was a widower, his wife predeceasing him by a number of years. For the past twelve years he had resided with his married daughter, Mrs Brock, of Braintree Road, his other daughter being Mrs H Shelley of Maldon Road. There are in all five sons, four of whom are elders of the Peculiar People in Essex. Two of them are at Witham, one at Southend, and one at Rochford.

Deceased had been a member of the Witham Peculiars ever since he came to the town, in which he later came to be such a well known character. Mr Whybrew was a man noted for his extraordinarily good memory, which was truly remarkable, It is expected that a large crowd will be present at the funeral, which takes place at Witham today (Thursday), the service at the peculiar Chapel being followed by the interment in All Saints Churchyard’.


Strike of pea sorters, Taber, Cullen and Co, 1891

Essex Weekly News, 3 April 1891, page 7

Essex County Chronicle, 10 April 1891, page 8

Essex Weekly News, 10 April 1891, page 7


National miners’ strike 1912

Witham Gas Co., 6 April 1912 (D/F 27/7/1)

Called ‘to consider the Coal supply owing to the Strike’, called by Finance Committee. Letter from Strafford Collieries, could not guarantee delivery of coal ‘as everything depended on result of Miners’ Ballot’. Manager said had 2 weeks supply. Agreed to obtain 50 tons ‘from Mr Oliver or elsewhere’ as soon as possible.

Witham Gas Co., 11 April 1912 (D/F 27/7/1)

Report on supply of coal. Telegrams from Messrs Myers Rose and Co offering coal at 36s per ton at Witham Station, and from Messrs Groves and Co, and Mr Oliver. Agreed to get 20 tons from Groves and if possible the 10 tons of Strafford nuts as well. Secretary and manager to use discretion for future. Decision on coal supply for year left over ‘owing to the present unsettled condition’.

Witham Gas Co., 9 May 1912 (D/F 27/7/1)

Report on what done re emergency coal supply. Bought various.


Threatened miners’ strike 1914

Witham Gas Co., 9 April 1914 (D/F 27/7/1)

‘The Secretary [J F Bawtree] reported that a short time since the manager had seen him and the Vice Chairman as to threatened Strike of Miners in Yorkshire and had ordered as much Coal as possible form the Strafford Collieries.’ Manager said 7 weeks stock. Strike now in progress. Proposed buy more at once.

Witham Gas Co., 7 May 1914 (D/F 27/7/1)

Defer coal tenders, because of uncertainty.


Strike at Witham Glove factory 1919 (Pinkham’s)

Essex County Chronicle, 28 February, page 6


Yesterday a strike occurred among the girls employed at Messrs Pinkham and Son’s Witham Glove Factory. About 40 girls – about two-thirds of the total employed – walked out of the factory at mid-day, and, dancing up the High Street, announced that they were on strike. The factory was not closed. The girls who came out were the glove-makers; the cutters remained at their work, and Mr Wm Pinkham, the managing directory, announced that he would carry on. Interviewed last evening by an Essex County Chronicle representative, Mr Bert Pinkham, who assists his father, said that the 40 girls who went on strike had made no application for an increase of wages; that the firm had always remedied any grievance when one was brought before them; and that the girls had never been harshly treated. “This,” continued Mr Pinkham, “is a serious business for our firm. Two months ago our girls joined the Workers’ Union, whereupon the wages of some of them began to fall. It had been stated that our girls received no war bonus. That was not true. We told the girls that we declined to discuss our business with the officials of the Workers’ Union, who want the unskilled girls earning 21s a week to receive an increase of 13s, and the skilled girls to receive an increase of 3s 6d. This morning five girls were paid off and the remaining glove-makers walked out of the factory. We are going to fight the Union”.

Essex County Chronicle, 7 March, page 5

‘WITHAM GLOVE STRIKE. Canon Galpin’s Offer to Mediate.

Canon Galpin, vicar of Witham, has taken an active interest in the strike of the work girls from Messrs Pinkham’s glove factory at Witham, and , after interviewing Mr W Pinkham, head of the factory, and also some of the girl strikers, he has offered to mediate.

“We do not want the strife of a strike in Witham parish”, said the Canon to a representative of the Essex County Chronicle, “we want peace and happiness. I saw Mr W Pinkham in order to ascertain his position in the matter, and I learnt from him that he is prepared to meet the girls and discuss with them any reasonable request they may make, but he will not meet the organisers of the Workers’ Union, nor allow them to dictate terms between him and his work girls. I have seen the girls on strike; and find that they do not care to meet Mr Pinkham to discuss these matters with him without the aid of the organisers of their Union, and so a deadlock has been reached. To overcome this deadlock I am willing, and have offered, to go with the work girls to meet Mr Pinkham when they discuss the business between them. Of course I should not represent either side; my one object is to bring the parties together. I am communicating the terms of my offer to the officials of the Workers’ Union at Chelmsford, and tit is for them to say whether they are willing that I should go instead of themselves with the girls for their interview with the employer. We had prayers at Witham Church last Sunday for the termination of the strike and the establishment of a speedy peace in Witham, which is all that I am concerned about, and it is to bring this about that I have taken action.”

Up to last evening we understand that Mr Pinkham had not accepted the offer of Canon Galpin to act as a mediator.

Upon the question of sticking to the Union in the dispute at issue, one of the Witham glove factory girls said to our representative, “I do not belong to the Union, but I came out on strike in sympathy with those girls who do. The Union reported that the girls employed at Messrs Pinkham’s factory at Barnstable are paid more money per dozen that the girls are paid at the Witham factory; also that the war bonus at Barnstable is 4d in the shilling, while at Witham it is 2d. We should never had heard of these alleged differences in rates of pay but for the Union to which some of the girls belong Although I do not belong to it, I am satisfied that the girls will stand by the Union over this”

Yesterday there was no fresh development. Some 23[?] girl glove workers are out, but there is a staff of cutters and others employed, and the factory is in operation. Collections made at other factories for the girls who are “out” amount to over £14.’

Essex County Chronicle, 14 March, page 5


Last evening, a public meeting, organised by the Workers’ Union officials, was held at Witham to explain the position of the girl glove makers out on strike from Messrs Pinkham’s factory there. Mr A Franklin of the National Union of Railwaymen, presided, and addresses were given by Lt P T Pollard, organiser of the Workers’ Union, Miss Florence Saward, the women’s organiser, and others. Miss Saward states that Canon Galpin, vicar of Witham, offered to arbitrate with Messrs Pinkham over the strike on condition that the Workers’ Union accepted him, because Mr Pinkham would not meet the officials of the Workers’ union. The Union accepted this offer of the Canon’s, but stipulated that their officials should also be present at the meeting, and this was the condition which Mr Pinkham refused’.

Essex County Chronicle, 21 March, page 2


On Saturday afternoon a public “demonstration” was held in the High Street, in support of the girls on strike. There was a gathering of three hundred people, and speeches were delivered from a wagonette by trade union officials. Two sailors[?] made a collection from the crowd and at neighbouring shops in aid of the strike girls’ fund. The proceedings were very orderly.

At the meeting “to explain the position”, Lieut. F[?] P[?] Pollard, of the Workers’ Union, said that body was determined to stand by the girls right through. They wanted the wages increased to the same standard as was paid at Messrs Pinkham’s factory at Barnstable. Messrs Pinkham refused to negotiate with him and Miss Saward, and next day they had a wire stating that the girls were out on strike because six of them had been dismissed. He (Mr Pollard) came to a meeting at Witham where Canon Galpin was and a kind of official reporter for Mr Pinkham or the police (laughter). He (Mr Pollard) had faced machine guns, and Mr Pinkham’s reporter would not put any fear into him (Uproar).

A cry was raised in the hall that “the reporter” was present, and a hunt took place through the crowd in the gallery to find him, there being cries of “chuck him out”.

Mr Pollard [???] that the Union was prepared to let Canon Galpin act as arbitrator, and he (Mr Pollard) was willing to stand down if the girls asked him to, but not otherwise. In the first fortnight upwards of £20[?] was subscribed by workers for the Witham strike fund, and they were prepared to go on.

Miss Saward said she asked for the Witham girls to receive the same pay as glove girls elsewhere. “If Mr Pinkham did not give in to the Union at Witham, they would ask the Executive to stop the work at Barnstaple”. (Loud applause)

Lieut. Pollard “I want to give Miss Saward warning that there is a gentleman taking shorthand notes, and he is in the gallery”.

There was again an excited search through the gallery.

Continuing, Miss Saward said she was invited by Mr Pinkham, and then he refused to negotiate. She had was absolutely staggered[?]. There had been no further invitation. The Union was determined to see the girls through.

Mr R Small, London, and Mr F Baker, Hatfield Peverel, also spoke’.

Essex Weekly News, 18 April, page 6

‘WITHAM. GLOVE FACTORY DISPUTE. In connection with the recent strike at the Witham Glove Factory, Mr Doughty, a representative of the Ministry of Labour, sat at the Church Hall on Monday to hear witnesses regarding the cause of the dispute. A number of persons were examined on the special point whether a certain employee of the Glove Company had been “victimised” and after a three-hours’ discussion the arbitrator gave his decision that there had been no “victimisation” on the part of the Company. He appealed, however, to Mr W Pinkham to give the employee another trial, which request that gentleman promised to consider’.


National miners? strike, 1919

Witham Gas Co., 28 July 1919 (D/F 27/7/1)

Letter from South Yorkshire Coal Supplies Committee, owing to strike no coal could be delivered. Urging strict economy. Notice to be sent out to consumers. Difficulty in fixing price of street lighting at present because of strike.


National Rail Strike, 1919

Essex Weekly News, 3 October 1919, pages 4 and 6

Essex Weekly News, 10 October 1919, pages 5


Farmworkers demo at Witham, 1920

Essex County Chronicle, 30 April 1920

page 3, see xerox on newspaper file.

‘Farm labourers’ protest at Witham. Will there be a General Strike ? Farmers’ Motor Cars and Profits considered. On Sunday afternoon a great public demonstration by the farm labourers and members of the Workers’ Union in Essex was held upon the Fairfield at Witham, in order to voice a county protest against a minimum wage of 42s 6d being fixed for the agricultural workers of Essex. Farm labourers arrived from all parts of Essex, the gathering being the largest held within living memory at Witham. Special trains were run from Braintree and Maldon, and numerous motor cars and motor ‘buses conveyed the workers from Chelmsford and the farm labourers from the more distant and remote parts of the county. A procession, nearly a mile long, was marshalled at the railway station, and passed through Witham town to the Fairfield, with bands playing and banners flying. At the head was carried the small banner of the Witham branch of the Workers’ Union, supported by Dr C F Knight, JP, and behind came the more elaborate banners and band of the Workers’ Union from Chelmsford, Braintree and other places.

It was estimated there were over ten thousand present. The weather generally was fine. Supt. L Fulcher (Braintree) was on duty with a large force of police, but the crowds were most orderly and wellbehaved throughout. The Fairfield was filled with the great concourse and speeches were delivered from two vans. The organisation of the demonstration was a great tribute to the ability of the officials of the Workers’ Union, and particularly to Mr George Dallas (Labour candidate for Maldon) and Mr P F Pollard, Chelmsford.

Mr J W Austin, Bishops Stortford, who presided, said the demonstration was held to prove to the farmers of Essex that the demand for a 50s a week wage was right, and that the labourers backed up the demand. It was said by some farmers that the men were satisfied with their present wages, and that only the agitators were making the demand to have the wages raised form 42s 6d to 50s, but that was not true. (“It is wicked”).

Labourers solid. That demonstration proved to the farmers of Essex, and of England, that the labourers were solid in their demands for higher wages. If the docker got 16s a day, why should not the farm labourer get a like amount ? In the past agricultural workers had been sweated, but now they were prepared to fight to a successful issue (Applause)

Mr P F Pollard informed the farm labourers that the workers of England were behind them in this struggle. The farmers of Essex had stated that the higher wages could not be paid, but the great profits made on farms were sufficient to show that the farmers were really in a position to pay much better wages. The membership of the Workers’ Union had largely increased among Essex farmworkers, and he appealed to those not already in the Union to come forward and join, so as to help in pressing the case forward. Miss Florence Sayward (Bocking) and Mr Jack Shingfield (Colchester) also spoke, the latter stating the he did not think the farmers would give way on this matter unless the labourers showed they were prepared to go forward and give the farmers a good hiding in any struggle that might ensue. At one farm in the county all the labourers told the farmer to do the work himself unless they were paid 50s a week. (“That’s the stuff to give ‘em.”) To offer 42s 6d a week was an insult to the intelligences and the stomachs of the farm labourers. (Laughter).

Essex to lead. The Workers’ Union was forged to fight. It was the largest individual Union in the country, and it could run a farm labourers’ strike out of income. (Applause). Essex was becoming one of the best organised rural counties in England, it had been pulled out of the mud, and they meant Essex to lead in the matter of agricultural wages. They were asking for the farm labourer – the man ho made all things possible – 50s a week wage (Applause).

Mr Jack Mills, MP for Dartford, delivered a moving speech, and stated that that gathering and the success of farm labourers’ organisations in Essex called up visions of Joseph Arch (Hear hear)

Mr George Dallas, Labour candidate for Maldon, said such a gathering as that had never been known in the history of Essex before. It was something of an earthquake. The Essex farmers would have to realise that their labourers were not slaves, and if they were wise after that meeting they would immediately make some offer to advance the wages from 42s 6d per week. The Workers’ Union were going to press forward for the higher wage. The Union put forward a wage of 50s a week, not because they believed that would be a fair wage – because it would not be a fair wage for the farm worker – but they thought an advance of 11s 6d a week would be a fair start for them. The 50s a week would certainly not satisfy the farm labourer long, and a little alter they would come back and ask for more (Applause).

A slow industry. Agriculture was a slow-moving industry, and could not adapt itself to great changes in a short time. When a 50s a week wage was asked for, it was absolutely refused, because the farmers said they could not afford to pay such wages; the farmer could not afford to pay more that 42s 6d ! (A voice: “Where do they get their motor cars from ?”) Mr Dallas: Oh, the Essex farmers get their motor cars out of the losses they make every year. (Laughter), Mr Dallas said if he thought the farmer could not pay higher wages he should realise they were up against a stone wall, but the Corn Production Act had increased the farmers’ profits by £200,000,000. He put those figures before the Wages Board the other day and was told they were only an estimate, but he replied that the figures were given by a member of the Government in the House of Commons, and of all the farmers and landlords present, not one challenged the statement of the Government.

Signs of prosperity. Every visible sign went to show that the farmer was very prosperous at the present time … [Agricultural Wages Board etc.] Mr Dallas moved a resolution that the meeting repudiated the minimum wage of 42s 6d and demanded that the Agricultural Wages Board should immediately put into operation a minimum wage of 50s and that the meeting pledged itself to use every possible method to enforce this demand.

Cr T Smith, Colchester, seconded, and Mr Selley[?] secretary to the Housing Committee, supported …

A Topsy Turvy World. Mr Jack Beard[?] president of the Workers’ Union, supported, and congratulated Messrs Pollard, Shingfield, and Austin, organisers in Essex of the Workers’ Union, on the splendid gathering they had held that day. …

The resolution was put simultaneously from each platform, and was carried unanimously, in a scene of tumultuous cheering’.


Braintree farmers and unemployed labourers. “The answer to the Witham demand for higher wages”. ‘ Meeting of Braintree Farmers Union. Labourers out of work. Farmers said would be more soon because farmers couldn’t pay the wages being demanded.


Also Essex Weekly News, 30 April 1920, page 6



Miners’ strike 1921

Witham Gas Co., 19 May 1921 (D/F 27/7/1)

Re coal supply, manager to get what can ‘during the present emergency due to the Coal Strike’.


Threatened rail strike, 1924

Witham Gas Co., 18 January 1924 (D/F 27/7/1)

Reference to ‘threatened Railway Strike’. Possibly be able to get some coal from Chelmsford.


General Strike, 1926

UDC, full Council 5 May 1926, page 363 (ERO D/UWi)

Volunteers. To enable all persons wishing to render service if called upon, it was decided to ask Captain L F Bevington to undertake this duty and attend at the Council Chamber to enrol volunteers. Notices to this effect be published in the town.

Essex Weekly News, 7 May 1926, page 7

Essex Weekly News, Weds 12 May 1926, page 1

Essex Weekly News, 14 May 1926, page 8

Essex Chronicle, 14 May 1926

Witham Gas Co., 12 June 1926 (D/F 27/7/1)

Manager had been to National Gas Co to consider manning of coal supply during Coal Strike. Coals offered were Silesian, Westphalian, and American at 50s to 52s per ton approx. Agreed manager to buy at once the 50 tons Durham coal offered and another 50 of Westphalian and more later if required.

Witham Gas Co., 3 August 1926 (D/F 27/7/1)

Letter from Urban District Council asking terms for street lamps. Agreed could not quote ‘under the present position of the Coal industry’ but would when ‘Emergency Regulations removed and normal supplies of coal resumed’ and expect to be able to offer same terms as last year.

Braintree and Witham Times, 12 January 1933

page 6 Retirement of Mr Jack Reynolds, for last 27 years was station foreman at Witham. Came after Mr J Doole who was killed by Cromer Express crash. Mr Reynolds born in Thorpe le Soken. During national railwaymen’s strike in 1925 [sic] he was ‘the only uniformed man to remain on duty at Witham station. For this, and as a recognition from the season ticket holders and also the townspeople, he was presented with a china cabinet and a silver teapot’. He married a Miss Knowler of Little Bentley. Their one daughter is Mrs W Ardley of the Avenue. Mr Reynolds has served five station masters. Ie. Messrs Cole, Lethers, Simmonds, Horlick and at present Mr A G Hancock.

Crittall’s ‘The men at Crittalls had no wish to strike and had no grievances against the firm, but nevertheless they had to down tools when the general call came. They, however, made as few difficulties as possible, and accepted the continuation of work at Witham which, because it was engaged on work for slum clearance and housing schemes, it was agreed should not be affected by the dispute’ (ERO T/Z 67, page 143).



Crittall, various (also see General Strike, 1926)

October 1929 onwards

World financial crash and beginning of five years problems for Crittall with Depression. Some discharged, put on short time, and wages falling below supposed minimum of piece work system. Short strike at Braintree and other ‘small sectional disputes from time to time’. (ERO T/Z 67, page 147)


Vote for strike by AEU but last minute concessions averted stoppage (ERO T/Z 67, page 149)

April 1936

Problems with Amalgamated Engineering Union that had been around for some year causing ‘second and last serious strike in the Company’s history’, mainly because maintenance workers at Braintree failed to get a rise. Toolroom at Silver End in support. Lasted four weeks. Meetings addressed by Union heads. The other two Unions didn’t support it. Settlement reached in May and increase of 1d an hour and new agreement (ERO T/Z 67, page 150)