Laurence, Percy, and family

Obituary from Essex Review, Volume 30, 1921, p.182
“Percy E. Laurence, J.P., of the Grove Witham, who died in a London nursing home after an operation, on 24 May, was a man than whom no-one of his district was better loved. He was born at Clapham Park, Surrey, son of Sydney Laurence, was educated at Harrow, and came in 1874 to Witham as a farming partner with the Hon C H Strutt, his lifelong friend. He gave up farming in 1883 on the death of a brother to join his father’s firm on the Stock Exchange. He married in 1881 Mary, daughter of the Rev C B Leigh, rector  of Goldhanger, and in 1896 purchased the Grove. He was made a JP of Essex in 1897. His local gifts were highly valued, among them being the site of the War Memorial, the Witham Cricket Ground, and the new Constitutional Club, built after the old one had been burnt down. Mr Laurence served as a Lieutenant to the Royal Suffolk Hussars from 1877 to 1884 and was Hon Colonel of the Essex Volunteers during th war. Mrs Laurence died some years ago. Two daughters are married, Miss Grace O Laurence, well known for her work during the war, was with her father at his death. The funeral was at Witham on 28 May.”

Assorted notes
From various sources in the past I have noted the following relating to Percy Laurence.

Essex Almanac, 1910
J.P.  Justice of Witham Petty Sessions
One of the Vice-Presidents of Essex County Bowling Association.
A Vice-President of the Old Age Relief Fund, Maldon Division.
President of the Constitutional Club, Witham.
President of Witham Town Band, formed 1902.
President of the Cricket Club of Witham.
A Vice-President of Witham Football Club.

Congregational Church records (ERO D/NC 3/32)
In 1909 he bought property previously the Witham Literary Institute, and in 1910 sold it to the Congregational church on condition there should be no building there.

1876? Bought part of the Park

ERO A10510
President of Witham Cricket Club before Dr Karl Gimson.
Gave ground for War Memorial.
Gave the new clock after the old one burnt down at the old Constitutional Club.

A search will no doubt reveal other references to him, for instance during the First World War. And also to his daughters, Grace and Madeleine. Grace, usually known as Gracie, organised the women farm workers during the First World War.

Some of my interviewees refer to the Laurences, for instance Mrs Amy Taylor, who lived as a child in the lodge at the top of the Avenue  (the Grove, the home of the Laurences, being at the bottom.) Amy’s father looked after the machinery at the Grove. See:

Tape 136. Mrs Amy Taylor (nee Burton), sides 1 and 2

I have never knowingly seen a photo of Percy Laurence but I have one of Gracie (M1865) (M149 is the same)



Taylor, Amy, nee Burton

[Mrs Taylor was brought up in the Lodge house at the top of the Avenue. It was the lodge of the Grove, where Percy Laurence lived. Her father worked for Mr Laurence on the machines etc.]
Letter:I believe Sir Percy Laurence had Byford House in Collingwood Road built, also he had an interest in creating the Recreation Ground.
t was Bygrove I think, my dear and that was Percy Laurence ‘s house.[Collingwood Road] He had that built at one time.

No, we were living in Bridge Street at the time. Very old houses because when Mr Percy Laurence, I don’t know whether he’d died or he’d retired, I think he died. Then we had to get out of the cottage, you see, the Lodge and we had this house in Bridge Street, the old dilapidated places

Q  Do you remember much about Mr Laurence? Mrs T:    No, I can’t remember a lot. I know Miss Gracie Laurence once bought my sister and I two beautiful dolls. In years gone by they used to have them in these machine shops, with the dollies all dressed. They must have been about a, can’t remember what happened to them. (Q: How nice.) It’s the only thing we ever had from them as far as I can remember. No, I can’t remember. I think he was a little short man, from what I can remember of him, but of course we wouldn’t see much of him would we, unless they come up the Avenue and we had to open the gates or anything but they were nearly always open except on market day, because we used to get the cattle in you see.

Essex County Chronicle, 16 June 1911
… Mr Percy Laurence, J P, president of the Witham Conservative Club, gave a garden party in the grounds of the Grove to members of the club and friends. There was a gathering of 250. … Mr Laurence … said he was particularly pleased to see the ladies, whose co-operation in political work he warmly welcomed’.

Essex Weekly News, 15 August 1919, page 8
‘An interesting presentation has been made by a large number of Essex farmers to Miss Grace O Laurence, of the Grove, Witham, as a “slight recognition of her valuable assistance in obtaining labour for the land during her voluntary work under the War Agricultural Executive Committee at Chelmsford, 1917-1919”. The presentation consists of a very handsome Louis Quinze writing table and chair of the same date. The farmers have also presented Miss Cicely Pelly with a beautiful cabinet appreciation of her voluntary services under the same organisation. For over two years these young ladies gave their ungrudging services under the Committee for the benefit of the farmers, and the success of their efforts may be judged by this gratifying and spontaneous token of appreciation.

In reference to the presentation we have received for publication the following letter:-

Dear Sir, May we ask you in your courtesy to allow us through your valued paper to acknowledge with grateful thanks the most handsome gifts that have been presented to us by the farmers of Essex ?

We are both greatly touched and gratified by this spontaneous and all too generous appreciation of the small se4ices we were able to render during the war under the Essex War Agricultural Committee. To us the work has been in all sincerity a labour of love, and we shall value our trophies for all time beyond anything on our possession.

Our heartfelt thanks are due to each and everyone of those who have so kindly contributed to the presentation. Yours faithfully, Grace O Laurence, Cicely Pelly. Witham, 14th August 1919’.

See M1865: Coronation Pageant, ‘the Masque of Time’; ‘King and Queen’

Essex County Chronicle, 14 February 1919, page 5,
‘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.

Alterations (new porch?) The Grove P E Laurence, JP (O) 1897? The Grove, Newland Street
99 Lodge Avenue Road Percy E. Laurence (O); Charles Lewis (B); George Sherrin, 33 Finsbury Circus, EC (A) 1898 Avenue Lodge, Collingwood Road
153 Four cottages


[No approval recorded; not built]

Off Newland Street Percy E Laurence esquire(O); P M Beaumont, Maldon (A) 1905 Chess Lane
155 Alterations and additions 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 Grove Cottages, Newland Street Percy E Laurence esq (O); P M Beaumont, Maldon, MSA (A) 1905 1-5 Grove Cottages, Newland Street
159 House Collingwood Road Percy E Laurence (O); P M Beaumont, Maldon (A) 1905 18 Collingwood Road (Bygrove house)
164 Closets 3, 4 & 5 Grove Cottages, Newland Street Percy E Laurence esq (O); P M Beaumont, MSA, Maldon (A) 1905 3-5 Grove Cottages, Newland Street
207 Park Cottage Maldon Road P E Laurence (O); J T Lever (A) 1909 54 Maldon Road
213 Garage The Grove P E Laurence esq, J P, the Grove (O); J T Lever (A) 1909 The Grove, 1 Newland Street

See Photo M149
Coronation Pageant, ‘the Masque of Time’; ‘King and Queen’. King or Father Time is Jack Bawtree, Queen is Gracie Laurence. Names from Lucy Croxall.
The clock [at 61 Neewland Street] was given to the town by late Mr Laurence of the Grove

sex Weekly News, 26 March 1915, page 8
Cricket Club. Annual meeting. Percy Laurence presided. Treas H B Peecock. Hon C H Strutt ‘wrote saying that cricket must go slow this year’. Money required for urgent national needs,. Cttee had decided not fixtures this year. Members invited to pay half subs, ‘except those who pay’ in case of scratch matches.

 Essex County Chronicle, 26 March 1915, page 4
Cricket. Witham Club. Annual meeting at the Eagle Hotel. P E Laurence president in chair. Treasurer H B Peecock. C H Strutt had written saying cricket should ‘go slow’ this year; Agreed no fixtures. Committee left in charge.

 Essex County Chronicle, 28 March 1919, page 6
‘Witham Cricket Club. Why Outdoor Recreation was preferred to growing potatoes’. Annual meeting at the Grove by invitation of the President, Mr P E Laurence. Mr W Stevens, for many years hon sec, voted to chair. Mr Laurence not well. Mr A P Snell of Brighton had written. Report by management committee, Laurence, Stevens and H B Peecock. ‘Carried on the club last year for the benefit of soldiers, and military league matches were played. The bar had not been open ..’

 Essex Weekly News, 14 July 1916, page 6, col 4. Tribunal re conscription. ‘Present – Hon C H Strutt, JP, CA, chairman; Messrs S Abrey, Q D Greatrex, P Hutley, JP, CA; Eb Smith, E J Smith, W Taber, and E Wood. Mr P E Laurence, JP,. and Mr E Pelly, military representatives. Mr S Daniel, clerk.’
Mrs Smith builder of Terling wanted exemption for only two workmen, Herbert M Dorking, 34, foreman bricklayer and plasterer, and  Fred Smith, 40, carpenter’. Neither passed for full service. Applicants’ ‘three sons had joined Army and another who was just 18 would have to go’. Six months postponement.
Mrs G:    Yes, he [Charlie Strutt?] was all in the farming. He was a director at Whitelands [Terling]and my husband used to go with him to Whitelands to lunch every Sunday with Gerald Strutt and Percy Laurence was at the end of the Avenue, that was his drive down (Q: Did you know him as well?) Yes and Gracie Laurence, but not as well as I knew the others a
And they’d have the cab outside waiting for them. Of course, in the First War, I don’t think there was about four or five cars in Witham. I don’t think there was. Pelly had one, you went up two or three steps to it. Luards never had none. Not Admiral Luard, no he didn’t – he had horse and carts. Laurence had a a horse and cart at The Grove. Because he used to go up and down The Grove to church, Laurence did. Well, she married a Pelly, didn’t she, Miss Laurence, they lived up Spa Place.
Miss P:    He went into the army and he wasn’t sort of working, and the War came along and Mr Laurence, he got rid of a lot. Because there was quite a lot worked there and they got rid of a lot. And I think – I don’t know what happened. Because that war sort of spoilt everything, really, then.
Miss Laurence was there. She married a Pelly. Miss Laurence – she used to run – they say now there’s nothing for children, and for people to do around here. But there was plenty to do because there was Sunshine Clubs, there was Boys Unions, there was Girls Friendlys, there was the Scouts, our boys were in the Scouts. Our boys were in the choir. There was choir practice one night and church on Sundays to go to and that. We used to have full weeks with plenty to do.
iss P:    My parents lived in Ardleys’ Yard [131 Newland St] when they first married. They lived there when they first married then they moved into the Grove house, because he still worked at The Grove. And then of course the War and that came and he had to go to the War, and we moved back into the same house in Ardleys’ Yard again.
Q:    So you couldn’t keep – the Laurences put you out because he wasn’t working there?
Miss P:    Well, he wasn’t working there, you see, and they had to take on more staff and put the – they wanted the houses. So of course my mother and us kids had to go …
……the Avenue. I remember it like that and there used to be a big house at the end of it. That’s all been pulled down now and they used to, the lady of the house Miss Laurence, that belonged to a man named Laurence, the lady of the house they used to drive through there when they went to church in an open carriage, don’t know if they call it a landau or whatever it is, with the old boy on top with a cocked hat. (Q: Really? [laugh].

[?re Nurses bungalow?] And he [Dr Knight]  said ‘Well if the Witham people contribute towards that, I’ll give the rest’. He’s the one [???]. Laurence gave the ground, that was the one that lived in the big house at the bottom of the Avenue, he gave the ground and the people of Witham they raised, I don’t know, about two or three, two hundred pounds or something and he made it up,
Q:    Did many people in Witham, how many people would you say had coaches of their own then?Mrs I:    Percy Laurence, see that’s why he had the drive right down. We spent hours sitting there under those beautiful trees [The Avenue].
Q:    In the Avenue, you mean?
Mrs I:    Yes. His gates were closed. We used to hide when his coach came along. [Q: It was supposed to be private, was it?] They were Sunday school teachers. Yes, very private.
Q:    But you still got in?
Mrs I:    Yes, yes, we used to climb in, anywhere for a shade, didn’t you.





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