The Town Hall

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The beginning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Chelmsford Chronicle, 7 June 1765

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Banks in Witham.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

William Sanders Knight, bank manager c.1853.

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

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

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

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

Alfred Charles (Joey) Mens, banker et al.







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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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