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The Picton family

The Picton family, of whom the Revd David was killed by a hand grenade in 1916

Notes by Janet Gyford, updated September 2013 

Essex County Chronicle, 8 October 1915
page 8 (see xerox). ‘Soldiers’ concert’ Congregational Schoolroom. Lieut Col Seymour Williams presided. Singers ‘included Mrs Seabrook, Lance Corporal Webber and Pt Brooks. Miss Picton played the violin’. (Essex Weekly News, 15 October 1915 )
page 8. ‘Maldon Division Liberal Council. Presentation to Mr W Pinkham. Yesterday the annual meetings of the Maldon Division Liberal Council were held at Witham … afternoon meeting … Mr Sydney Velden, the new agent, was introduced to the members. After tea a general meeting … they were met in a social way and not to discuss party questions. The Government were doing their best, and he thought they were unanimous in according them hearty support … appreciation of Mr Tweedy Smith’s services in continuing his connection with the party in that Division … Resolution … supported by the Rev D M Picton and Mr D B Smith. 

Essex County Chronicle, 26 November 1915
page 8. ‘Congregational School, Mrs Picton presented a dressing case to Mr J W Jones, treasurer of the clothing club, and a set of brushes to Mr A Rudkin, librarian of the school, on the departure of each for the Army. The Rev D M Picton gave the men a pocket testament each’.

 Essex County Chronicle, 18 February 1916, page 8
‘Congregational Church’. Second anniversary of settlement of Rev Picton. Preaching.

 Essex County Chronicle, 16 June 1916
Including a full-length photo of the three Pictons). ‘Witham Bomb Tragedy. Inquest and funerals’. Deaths of Revd D M Picton Congregational minister, and Lieut James McLagan, R E, and serious injury to Mrs and Miss Picton’. Lieut billeted at the Manse with them. Showing a hand grenade at ten on night. The two of them killed outright. Mrs Picton injury to foot and Miss Picton to eye and arm. 17 panes of glass blown out of window.

Rev Picton 52, Lieut 22, of 3/1st Highland Field Co., attached to the 1/3rd Lowland Field Co. RE. Walter Coker chair of jury. Inspected scene etc. and viewed bodies. Jacob Marsden Picton, draper of Westminster Bridge Road, his brother. Lots of detail. The Lieut an expert.

‘Remarkable demonstration of sympathy’. Cortege from Manse, ministers etc. Down High Street to church. Flags half mast and blinds closed. Interment in All Saints. ‘It is long since such a general scene of mourning was witnessed in the town’. Rev E M Edmunds of Hadleigh, formerly of Witham, there. Address. Miss Winifred Drake at organ. Relatives from all over.

Sunday services described. Also ‘Capt Yuille, CF, at his open-air service, made an impressive allusion … also loss … McLagan’.

Letter of appreciation by WCW of Witham. Tragic. Loveable, happy knack of making friends.

 Essex Weekly News, 21 July 1916
page 6, col 6. The Picton Fund. The Picton Memorial Fund, the appeal for which was generously responded to by all classes, has now been closed, the sum contributed being £320. Mrs and Miss Picton are both making steady progress towards recovery from their injuries and shock.

Info from emails from the late Alan Smith. His mother was Gwyneth, nee Picton, Reverend David Picton’s daughter, and his father was Leslie Smith.

 11 December 2002.

Just a few words on them to amplify what you have about the bomb accident and their part in the family.

Grandpa David Picton was Welsh and, I think, was born in Cynwyl Elfed, a small village near Carmarthen. He was, again I think, a grand -son or -nephew of a brother of the General Picton who commanded the 3rd Division for Wellington in the Peninsular War and was killed at Waterloo and has a statue in Carmarthen. (Certainly his purported general’s sword came down to me but that is another story.)

Rev. David was pastor at Halesworth in Suffolk where he married Elizabeth Rignall and where my mother was born before they came to Witham. As a result of the accident my grandmother had various metal plates and tubes in her legs and my mother lost an eye and had bits of shrapnel in her legs. After the accident they both went to live with the Misses Butler who lived at Hollybank in Guithavon Valley.

Having been head girl at Milton Mount College (for the daughters of Congregational Ministers) then at Gravesend, she went on after the accident to the Royal Academy of Music where she won the medals for her years in piano and violin. Having married my father after WW1, her music as a farmer’s wife was limited, but much enjoyed, to running the Women’s Institute Choir and playing the piano at home.

Granny Picton moved to a new house, Conwyl (?English version of Cynwyl) at 7, The Avenue at Witham in the 30’s where I stayed frequently as a boy. In the 50’s my first wife, Susie, and I lived in Conwyl and where my eldest daughter and son were born and where Susie sadly died. (My present wife, Jo, was a great friend of Susie’s and was good enough to take on me and two small children – we have had 5 ever since!)

8 Jan 2003

‘What I do know is that when my father, Leslie, came out of the army and decided to be a farmer, grandpa Ernest sent him to the Writtle Agricultural College to learn the business and then bought Mounts Farm at Rayne for him to run. My father and mother [Miss Picton] were married (1921) and lived at Mounts Farm where I spent most of my first two years. (Mounts Farm is miles from anywhere so I was born (1923) at the Misses Butler’s house, Hollybank, Guithavon Valley, Witham where granny Picton was then living)’.

Summary of various info about Leslie Ernest Walter Smith who in 1921 married Gwyneth Picton, dau of Rev Picton

Born c. 1895 Witham. In army 1919. Farmer afterwards; his father sent him to Writtle Ag Coll and then bought Mounts Farm, Rayne, for him

In 1921 married Gwyneth Picton, dau of Cong min who had been killed in accident with hand grenade at the Manse in 1917.

In 1925 went to father’s farm at Moulsham Hall (though also contin to run the Rayne farm). Joseph Ernest’s four farms put into partnership of Leslie and Esmond, probably in 1920s. In 1937 was of Moat farm and Whiteheads farm

Obit says till not long before 1954 farmed Moulsham Hall Gt Leighs with his brother and also at Rayne and at Whiteheads farm Witham Sold the first two not long before 1954 and moved to Littlestones, Avenue Road, Witham, and cont to farm Whiteheads,

Died August 1954 aged 59 when of Littlestones, Avenue Road

1930 electoral register
Elizabeth Mary Picton at Conwyl, The Avenue.


 Mrs Ena MacPherson, nee Beard, born 1915

“But the Manse, oh, did you hear about the Reverend Picton that lived there? (Q: Oh yes, with the hand, the hand grenade, yes. [killed 1916]. And I was the last one he held. My mother went there to tea that day, and he nursed me, I was one. And I’d just gone home, mother had taken me home, and that happened. (Q: Oh dear.) Dreadful. Mrs Picton used to sit behind us in the chapel.”

Gerald Palmer CBE, born 1910

“That same minister, a Reverend Picton, had officers billeted on him in the Manse, now 2 Newland Street. One evening, I think in June 1916, one of the officers took a grenade in to show them. He evidently mistakenly thought it was a dummy, and as he was explaining how it worked, he took out the pin. The officer and the minister were killed outright, his wife and daughter seriously injured. My parents somewhat foolishly took me next day to see the shattered windows of the house, and I remember being terribly upset by the affair.”

Mrs Annie Ralling, nee Baldwin, born 1900

“Then we had the Reverend Picton and he was killed during the First World War. A bomb went off near the War Memorial, you know. That first house there was the Manse at one time and there was a young officer and I think he was engaged to Mr Picton’s daughter and he was there describing the workings of a hand grenade and it exploded and blew the dining room. Miss Picton lost the sight of one eye and I think Mrs Picton was hurt in the foot and this young officer was killed and so was Mr Picton. Oh it was dreadful for the town. It was indoors in the dining room. The whole of the front of that house was blown out. [2 Newland Street]. Shelley’s, yes that’s right. He was ever such a nice man Mr Picton. He taught Connie Wright that I spoke about, and me, taught us to sing Aberystwyth, you know, Jesu, Lover of my Soul. We had to sing that to the Welsh tune because he was Welsh you see. He taught us how to sing it. Oh he was a wonderful man for singing. A very nice family. Miss Picton she married one of the Smiths, Leslie Smith. They used to live at Earlsmead.”

Walk 1. Round the ancient earthworks

Walk 1. Round the Ancient Earthworks

NB the illustrations have not yet been included

The route of walk 1. The circular earthworks enclose about 25 acres (10 hectares). There were two rings, the inner one higher, so today there is a ‘dome’ effect. This originated as an Iron Age ‘hill fort’ probably strengthened by the Saxons in 913 AD. For centuries afterwards the main Witham manor had its headquarters here. The walk starts in the centre, goes down to the edge, and then round about two thirds of the outside anticlockwise (looking out for the old embankment), and back to the centre again. Other interesting features include the late Victorian and Edwardian buildings of the ‘Temples Estate’ of over 100 houses, started 1882.

The distance is rather less than a mile (1 km). Street numbers  are given in brackets in the text (but not marked on the map). Landmarks may of course change or even disappear as time goes by. Pages 16 to 20 of the colour section show examples of bricks, railings, street furniture etc.

Start on the pavement at the edge of the Albert car park, opposite the railway.

The Albert and the Grange (hidden behind) – on site where Knights Templars and Hospitallers had chapel and farm buildings till 1500s. Albert a pub since 1842 – once had ship’s figurehead of African chief outside (18801990s), brought from London by innkeeper George Best (some thought it insulted Prince Albert).

Right of Albert car park, unexplained rise up to adjoining taxi parking place. Long yard visible – workshops and warehouses. Belonged to Joseph Smith and Son, prolific builders 1882-1914 (see pages 86-88). They were ‘builders, contractors, and brick manufacturers’ with a ‘steam joinery works & sawing & planing mills’. Had 40-foot brick chimney (12 metres) Old sawing shed now the carpet warehouse on far left (optional trip there and back). Tiny building on road side (1A) – taxis – built 1911 as haulage office. Then Employment Exchange in 1920s (manager Frank Cundy also taught typing). Then George Thompson, ‘coal and coke merchant, cartage contractor, firewood, logs, buyer and seller of old Tudor tiles and bricks’.

Cross both Braintree Road and Albert Road to reach railings by railway, i.e. passing snack bar, formerly a bus shelter, on your left.

Deep cutting dug by hand through earthworks for railway in 1843 (see pages 62-65). Station built 1906 after old one crushed by fatal crash of Cromer express (1905). Before, main entrance was on far side, and smaller one here. New 1906 station well built – lengthy specifications, e.g. ‘bull nosed’ bricks, brass fittings etc. Ironwork made by Crittall’s at Braintree (they had to build a new plant specially) – firm’s name visible under middle of three windows (and elsewhere in station) See colour pages 16 and 17.

Car park across rails was coal yard. Various industries came to that area 1880s onwards, including Cooper Taber (seeds) – from 1956 to about 1990 they had a prize-winning glass building by Chamberlin, Powell and Bon.

later the architects of the Barbican in London. Only industry remaining now is the maltings – taken over by Scottish company Hugh Baird, 1920s, much rebuilt since 1961.

Continue on down the hill, crossing to the left hand side sometime before the pavement runs out.

The Temperance Hotel (9 Albert Road) in the 1890s. Its builder and first owner was Robert Moore (from the same family that founded a well-known local carriers’ business in 1815 – it continued as a 20th century bus company). He was a member of Witham’s ‘Temperance Ark’, founded in 1875 to campaign for total abstinence from alcohol. To start with, he also had an undertakers’ business here. The boy on the horse is his son Robert Gladstone Moore. Note the decorated wooden gable end, and the moulded bricks between the upper and lower windows.

Opposite the station – in 1848 were stables, forges, workshops etc for building Maldon and Braintree railways. House (4) where William and Rebecca Pinkham first made gloves c 1904-05 (see colour page 12). Fern Cottages (5-8), built 1887 as part of new ‘Temples estate’, in which displays of dates, names and moulded bricks and chimneys were popular. Former Temperance Hotel

(9) with large balcony, built 1883.

Pair of tall semi-detached houses (13-14), the Pinkhams’ second glovemaking place (1905-12) – family lived in far one, about ten girls worked in other – connected by internal door.

Keep left at bottom – edge of earthworks is on your left – shown by raised houses – note level of front doors above road. Look at (but don’t follow) Cut Throat Lane on right – once a main road to Rivenhall. Disappointingly for some, it’s a corruption of ‘Cut Athwart Lane’ – lane cut across a field – there are others elsewhere in Essex. Has yellow brick wall – only surviving relic of vast Crittall’s metal window factory – transformed Witham 1920 – war work in Second World War – several bombings (see pages 110-112, 136, and colour page 13). Demolished 1992, now site of supermarket (designed to look rather like Crittall’s – long horizontal windows). In Albert Road, houses high up on old earthworks – bank dug into for car parking.

Staggered cross-roads. Narrow Braintree Road to your left – interesting 1880s houses – incredibly this road carried all traffic to and from Braintree until 1970. Going across into White Horse Lane (formerly called Hill Lane because of earthwork), you go to the right of an attractive tall weatherboarded building – former seed warehouse. Built 1890s for Thomas Cullen – brick extension added 1908. Now home of popular Witham Technology Centre. The drive-in at far end of it is up steep slope because of old earthworks. Archaeological excavation here in 1970 (when ‘new’ Braintree Road was built) rather inconclusive.

At the dead end, take path sloping up to right and cross the busy road carefully.

From the road, see the pleasantly ‘wild’ area. This and car park on land formerly bought by parish officers in 1600s, with money left by Dame Katherine Barnardiston. Rent paid for bread for the poor every Sunday till early 1900s. Once a gravel pit for road mending. Had playground with swings in 1900. Now known as Bell field (though name originally further east). Probably not for making bells – Witham’s church bells all made in other towns. Considered for Council houses in 1919 – Government commissioner said ‘too far beyond the town and shopping centres’.

To left of the field, take path between metal railings, leading down into the rest of White Horse Lane.

Immediately on right, concrete base in corner was site of Hurrell and Beardwell’s motor engineering and omnibus business’s first site (1920). New houses (2004) on right – replaced offices, earlier busy builders’ yard (191474), first John Dean’s, then Adams and Mortimer’s, whose stock, auctioned in 1974 (391 lots), included ‘100 squints and splays’, ‘complete contents of paint shop’, ‘2 planks of African pear’, and sacks and sacks of nails. On left side of road, earthworks again, this time in back gardens of bungalows. All formerly the Cullens’ garden, between their seed warehouse and their house.

Just past new cul-de-sac called ‘Bellfield Close’, a red brick house, 1928, inscribed ‘Stefre’ between the top windows. Previously site of butcher’s slaughterhouses, with pig styes, ‘sticking pound’, bullock pound, stables, hay loft, bone shed and chicken house. Built by Frederick Fuller (named after Stella and Fred) with Council subsidy. Electricity just arriving then – specifications asked for either nine gas points or sixteen electric points. It is said that wooden panelling inside the house was damaged by machine-gun fire from plane during Second World War.

Black weatherboarded office building – optional trip round it anticlockwise, past its door into long car park – has stone on its left wall with the initials of John Coote, 19th century resident of 4 Church Street whose back door you can see.

Back in White Horse Lane, continue to the White Horse, then cross over the main Chipping Hill road and down Moat Farm Chase, nearly opposite you (walk 2 crosses here).

House at bottom on left uses name Moat farm – in fact was outbuildings – farmhouse was on right (built 1500s, demolished 1950s). Medieval house here sometimes called ‘the Moot’ – perhaps place for Saxon ‘moot’ or meeting – these held in a banked square – perhaps where there was a square pond near the river in the 1800s ?

Brick bridge (built 1700s) once had a ford alongside on left – both used for carts and animals crossing to meadows – brick barrier narrowing the bridge is quite new.

At the other side of the bridge, turn left along the path or by the river towards the viaduct (after which you’ll turn left up the road).

The River Walk follows the river Brain nearly two miles through the town – established by Witham Urban District Council early 1970s. Meadow between path and river – previously, since Domesday (1086) and before, belonged to Powershall, over a mile away – people came from there to grow hay and graze animals. Given to Council 1937 as memorial to Philip Hutley, farmer at Powershall – known at first as ‘Hutley Memorial Recreation Ground’. The earthworks on left now on other side of river in gardens, partly natural. Through railway viaduct 30 or 40 feet (10 metres) high – built 1843, blocking view between Chipping Hill and rest of the town.

Going over river and up Armond Road, looking to right, area of grass and bushes about 30 yards away was place used for working and washing skins and cloth in medieval times, with house called ‘the Watering’ in early 1500s. Then at end of 1700s was a small bath house and cold water pool – special path from the mansion at the Grove. More recently, several cottages by river, picturesque but damp and crowded, demolished 1930s in Council slum clearance programme (see page 124-25).

At T-junction turn left up the hill; you are now in Guithavon Valley.

Now climbing outer earthworks. Jubilee Oak – on traffic island on right – ‘moss cupped oak’ planted 1887 – Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. Suffered unauthorised ‘mutilation’ by electricity workers in 1935 – looked like lamp post for a time. Small plaque on ground by it for Queen Elizabeth’s Golden Jubilee, 2002. Continue uphill into main Collingwood Road, built 1869, was fields till early 1900s, then large houses came. ‘The most fashionable road in the place’ in 1919 according to postcard sent by a soldier to his mother.

On left, up the hill, Millfield Terrace (2-8, 57-67) – white brick – some dated, e.g. 57-59, the earliest two, with ogee arches (S shaped) over the windows, have ‘I C 1827’ for Iohannes (John) Crump. At 59 from 1880s to 1930s was dressmaker Elizabeth Smith with ‘Miss Smith, Robes’ on brass plate. Two newer houses inserted 1990s.

As you go on, look at buildings across Collingwood road, right to left. Red brick bungalow (46) with wooden fence – built 1920 as ‘Nurse’s bungalow’ (see page 126) – innumerable Witham babies born here – intended as War memorial, but sadly plaque by door recording this now hidden by bushes. To its left, Warwick House (48), tall, original cast iron railings (see colour page 19). Built 1910 for William Heddle, bishop of the Peculiar People. His son had shop here for credit drapery business till 1970s – men known as ‘johnny fortnights’ collected payments at your door. Two newer houses (48A-50) on site of former YMCA hut, built 1915 as social centre for soldiers billeted in Witham for training. Church House, built 1909 as a meeting hall – funded by anonymous donation (now known to be from Hester Holt) – designed by well-known Chelmsford architects Chancellor and Son. All these buildings have steep banks behind them from the earthworks.

Still looking to the other side of the road, junction with long straight Avenue marks edge of inner earthwork – gradient at this end formerly one in two – reduced in 1960 to one in twenty – old slope survives in pavements. Lodge, one gatepost, and small piece of railing between them, survive from when Avenue was in grounds of mansion at the Grove – people could walk here if they behaved. Burton family lived in lodge early 1900s – six redheaded children – bedrooms in attic reached by fold-down ladder in living room. House-building started 1920s and magnificent lime trees cut down. One of earliest houses was ‘North Corner’ (45) – white – down between the two roads – said to be first Witham house with Crittall’s metal windows.

Still looking over to the other side, Avenue Road – branching off to left of the Avenue – for centuries the only road between Newland Street and Chipping Hill. Edwardian wall letter-box. Pair of houses (62-64) at top on left dating from 1884 (then part of new ‘Temples estate’ like others in Avenue Road, some very imposing). Earlier the site of first (tiny) Church School, built 1813. Black brick wall further left – former site of parish pound for stray animals (till 1880s). Left again, past Easton Road, Slythe’s monumental masons – one of oldest Witham businesses still working. James Slythe came to town about 1840 – his son moved to this site early 1860, had the two white houses built 1862. Last of the family died in c 2000. Railway station entrance originally on this side. After it moved to the other side in 1906, the third James Slythe was too impatient to go across by road – used to scramble down the bank and across the rails – also complained about the soot from the steam trains.

Back on your own side of the road, Labour Hall, opened 1962, seriously damaged by fire June 2005. The site was formerly the cattle market. Just past it was the market office, of which part became a shop (‘The Cabin’) in 1930s, replaced 1990 by red brick office building. Graffiti on fence beyond (illustrated). Continuing across railway bridge (widened 1960), on left, Templemead flats (1990s) – on the site of old glove factory which was built for William Pinkham in 1912 (replacing the Albert Road house seen earlier), extended 1948, closed 1961 (see page 98). Then, for a time, Guys Mechanical Engineers – one of first companies to move from London in 1960s. The walk ends here, back at the Albert.

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



Bridge Home, Historic Building Assessment, 2003






Historic Building


(copy of a report provided to Janet Gyford by Robert Kinchin Smith)


Prepared by:

RPS Planning Transport & Environment, Oxford

August 2003
RPS Planning Transport & Environment
Mallams Court
8D Milton Park
OX14 4RP


Tel       01235 821888
Fax      01235 820351


See also  “The Union Workhouse, later Bridge Home” et al.





















1      Introduction                                                                      

2      The Proposals                                                                    

 3      Aims of the Study                                                               

 4      Methodology                                                                       

 5      The Poor Law Background                                                

 6      Historical Development      

7       Description (I) – Introduction and Southern Ranges (Blocks T to U)  

8      Description (II) – The Central Ranges (Blocks H to R & V)

9      Description (III) – The Northern Ranges (Blocks A to G)

8      Discussion                                                                          

9      Sources                                                                                  


1      Essex County Council Archaeological Advisory Services Brief

2     Essex SMR Summary Sheet

3.    List Description

4.   The New Poor Law Workhouses of George Gilbert Scott and William Bonython Moffatt; K.A. Morrison, 1997

5.   Brief Description of Buildings on the Witham Union Workhouse Site






Fig 1   Site Plan

Fig 2   Witham Tithe Map (1839)

Fig 3   Witham Town Plan (n.d. 1840-1860)

Fig 4   1st ed. 25” OS Map (1874)

Fig 5   2nd ed. 25” OS Map (1897)

Fig 6   Tracing of Block Plan (3rd July 1901)

Fig 7   Block Plan (6th Sept 1901)

Fig 8   3rd ed. 25” OS Map (1922)

Fig 9   Tracing of Block Plan (1923)

Fig 10 Tracing of Block Plan (Aug 1937)

Fig 11 Block Plan showing land to be purchased (May 1938)

Fig 12 1:2500 OS Map (1953)

Fig 13 1:2500 OS Map (1966)

Fig 14 1:2500 OS Map (1971 and 1974)

Fig 15 1:2500 OS Map (1982 and 1984)

Fig 16 Entrance Range (Block T) – Ground Floor Plan (Phased)

Fig 17 Main and Central Ranges (Blocks H to R and V) – Ground Floor Plan (Phased)

Fig 18 Main and Central Ranges (Blocks H to R and V) – 1st Floor Plan

Fig 19 Main and Central Ranges (Blocks H to R and V) – 2nd and 3rd Floor Plans

Fig 20 Northern Ranges (Blocks A to E) – Ground Floor Plan (Phased)

Fig 21 Northern Ranges (Blocks A to E) –1st Floor Plan (Phased)

Fig 22 Block E, ‘As Existing’ Survey, Jan 1933

Fig 23 Block E, ‘As Existing’ Survey, Jan 1933

Fig 24 Block E, South and East Elevations, Jan 1933 and 2003



Plate 1   Post-card showing the Entrance Range (Block T) c.1900-23

Plate 2   Photo of former single-storey west range (precursor of Block I) 1914-18

Plate 3   Entrance Block (Block T) – South Elevation

Plate 4   Entrance Block – West Range (T1, T2 and T3) – Exterior Views

Plate 5   Entrance Block – West Range (T2 and T3) – Interior Views

Plate 6   Entrance Block – East Range (T5) – Exterior Views

Plate 7   Entrance Block – East Range (T5 and T6) – Exterior and Interior Views

Plate 8   Entrance Block – East Range (T5 and T6) – Interior Views

Plate 9   Blocks S and U – General Views

Plate 10 Main Range (Block O) – South Elevation

Plate 11 Main Range (Block O) – North Elevation

Plate 12 Main Range (Block O) – Windows and Doors

Plate 13 Master’s Lodgings (Block O3) – Interior Views (Basement)

Plate 14 Master’s Lodgings (Block O3) – Interior Views (Ground Floor)

Plate 15 Master’s Lodgings (Block O3) – Interior Views (1st and 2nd Floors)

Plate 16 Master’s Lodgings (Block O3) – Interior Views (2nd and 3rd Floors)

Plate 17 Main Range – East and West Ranges (Block O2 and O4) – Stairs and Landings

Plate 18 Main Range – East and West Ranges (Block O2 and O4) – Interior Views

Plate 19 Western Terminal Cross-Range (Block O1) – General Views

Plate 20 Eastern Terminal Cross-Range (Block O5) – General Views

Plate 21 Extensions to Western Terminal Cross-Range (Blocks J and R) – General Views

Plate 22 Extensions to Eastern Terminal Cross-Range (Blocks P, Q and V) – Gen. Views

Plate 23 Western Ranges (Block H) – General Views

Plate 24 Western Ranges (Block I) – General Views

Plate 25 Kitchen Ranges (Block K) – General Views

Plate 26 Kitchen Ranges (Blocks K2, K3 and K4) – General Views

Plate 27 Eastern Ranges (Block N) – Exterior Views

Plate 28 Eastern Ranges (Block N) – Interior Views

Plate 29 Eastern Ranges (Block L) – General Views

Plate 30 Eastern Ranges (Blocks L and M) – General Views

Plate 31 Central Infirmary Block (Block F1) – Exterior Views

Plate 32 Central Infirmary Block (Block F1) – Interior Views

Plate 33 Western Infirmary Block (Block F2) – Exterior Views

Plate 34 Western Infirmary Block (Block F2) – Interior Views

Plate 35 Eastern Infirmary Block (Block F3) – General Views

Plate 36 ‘Boys’ School Room’ (Block A1) – Exterior Views

Plate 37 ‘Boys’ School Room’ (Block A1) – Exterior and Interior Views

Plate 38 ‘Girls’ School Room’ and ‘Mattress Shop’ (Blocks D1 and D2) – General Views

Plate 39 ‘Auxiliary Boiler House’ and NHS Boiler House (Blocks B and G) – General Views

Plate 40 ‘Boiler House’ (Blocks C, C1 and C2) – General Views

Plate 41 ‘Washing Room’ and ‘Ironing Room’ (Blocks E4 and E1) – General Views

Plate 42 ‘Airing Room’ (Block E2) – General Views

Plate 43 ‘Drying Room’ (Block E3) – General Views












East Anglian Contractors are in the process (August 2003) of submitting a planning application proposing to renovate and convert to residential use the former buildings of Bridge Hospital, Witham. The Heritage and Advice Promotion Team (HAMP) of Essex County Council, the advisors to the planning authority, has asked that the impact of the proposals on the architectural value of the buildings on the site should be assessed prior to their decision. RPS Consultants have been instructed by East Anglian Contractors to prepare the preliminary impact assessment, to a brief provided by Essex County Council’s Heritage and Advice Promotion Team (Appendix 1). The study was carried out in late July to early August 2003. The block numbers relate to those shown in Figure 1.Witham Union Workhouse (c.1838-1880) – (See Figs 2 to 4)

2  Witham’s original parish workhouse, which still stands close to the parish church, was built in 1714. The Poor Law amendment Act of 1834 sought to reduce the burden of poor relief on individual parishes and sought to group parishes into Poor Law Unions. A considerable building programme ensued, over 300 being completed by 1840, many to standard plans published in 1835. Witham Poor Law union was established on 15th December 1835, with a Board of Guardians of 23 elected members representing 17 constituent parishes (Great Coggeshall, Fairstead, Faulkbourn, Feering, Great Baxted, Hatfield Peverill, Inworth, Kelvedon, Little Braxted, Little Coggeshall, Mark’s Hall, Messing, Rivenhall, Terling, Ulting, Wickham Bishop, Witham (Higginbotham). Initially the new Union continued to use the old parish workhouses at Coggeshall and Witham, but on 6th March 1837, the Witham Union Guardians resolved to construct a new Union workhouse, to house 300 inmates (ERO, G/W M1).

3.  The appointed contractor for the new Witham Union workhouse was Messrs Steggles & Sons and work on site commenced in August 1837. It is not exactly clear when the works were completed, although it was sometime between December 1838 and February 1839 (pers. com. Gyford, cit. ERO, G/W M1). The designs for the new workhouse were prepared by a young George Gilbert Scott. Scott had set up his own practice in 1836 and, with his assistant William Bonython Moffatt, he was responsible for the design of some fourty-four workhouses, mostly in southern England. About a quarter of these still survive today. Scott and Moffatt developed a standard workhouse plan, which was applied, with minior variations to almost all of their workhouses. This plan was applied to the four built by the partnership in Essex (Witham, Billericay, Dunmow and Tendring). Of these four, Witham displays the greatest number of the essential features of the Scott / Moffatt plan in a recognisable form today (Figs 2 and 3)

3.  The appointed contractor for the new Witham Union workhouse was Messrs Steggles & Sons and work on site commenced in August 1837. It is not exactly clear when the works were completed, although it was sometime between December 1838 and February 1839 (pers. com. Gyford, cit. ERO, G/W M1). The designs for the new workhouse were prepared by a young George Gilbert Scott. Scott had set up his own practice in 1836 and, with his assistant William Bonython Moffatt, he was responsible for the design of some fourty-four workhouses, mostly in southern England. About a quarter of these still survive today. Scott and Moffatt developed a standard workhouse plan, which was applied, with minior variations to almost all of their workhouses. This plan was applied to the four built by the partnership in Essex (Witham, Billericay, Dunmow and Tendring). Of these four, Witham displays the greatest number of the essential features of the Scott / Moffatt plan in a recognisable form today (Figs 2 and 3).

4.   The typical Scott and Moffatt design comprised a single storey entrance block (Block T) having a central entrance archway (T4) flanking a Chapel (T2), Porter’s Rooms / Pauper’s Waiting Room / Board Room / Board Clerk’s Office (T5) and single-storey Probationer’s lean-tos behind (T3/T6). Behind this rose the four-storey octagonal tower (03) housing the Lodgings (living quarters) of the workhouse Master and Matron, flanked on two sides by three-storey wings containing the ‘undeserving poor’, segregated into boys’, girls’, men’s and women’s Dormitories and male and female Day Rooms (02 and 04). The ends of the three-storey wings were usually terminated by cross-wings (O1 and O5) containing Dormitories for the ‘deserving poor’, namely aged men and women, with further Day Rooms for each. A Kitchen block (corresponding to K1) projected from the rear of the Master’s Lodgings, with Back Kitchen and Bakehouse to the rear of this. A separate range of 2-storey buildings to the rear (F1/F2/F3) usually housed an Infirmary, flanked by two single-storey workroom ranges housing Washrooms and Laundry on the women’s side (precursors of Block E) and workrooms on the men’s side (demolished). These ranges and other walls created a number of exercise courtyards, allowing each to be exclusively used by infirm men, infirm women, able-bodied men, able bodied women, boys, girls and mothers with infants. There was also a kitchen garden to the east, separated from the workhouse quadrangle by a courtyard containing greenhouses, pig-styes and further single-storey ancillary buildings (demolished). Separate provision was always made for ‘Casual Wards’ for vagrants. These may also have been housed in some of the buildings in this courtyard.

5.   The architectural styles adopted by different Unions differed widely, Witham and Tendring being built in the, totally un-adorned but perfectly proportioned, industrial vernacular typical of Scott / Moffatt’s pre-1838 workhouses, with subtle classical saved only for the entrance block and Master & Matron’s lodgings. By contrast, Billericay to a degree and Dunmow in particular, were built in a richly-ornamented Tudor-gothic, described as ‘Old English’, which Scott in particular favoured in his later designs. The choice of style appears to have been at least in part a financial one, as Steggles tender for Witham Union workhouse (pop 300) was for c.£5,295 (pers. com. Gyford, cit. ERO, G/W M1), whilst Dunmow (pop 350) and Billericay cost c.£8,000 and £11,000 respectively (Higginbotham).

6.   The original layout of the workhouse is shown on the 1839 Tithe Award Map (Fig 2) and on the undated Witham Town Plan of c.1840-60 (Fig 3). The only significant difference between the two plans is that the later plan shows the Kitchen block (K1) to the rear of the Master & Matron’s Lodgings at the centre of the main block, whilst the earlier plan does not. It should be noted that the Tithe Map was being surveyed while the workhouse was under construction and that such maps should also never be relied on for accuracy. The Kitchen here was an integral element in the Scott / Moffatt plan and there is no reason to suspect that a Kitchen was not part of the original scheme. All of these buildings survive today, with the exception of an eastern courtyard (possibly housing ‘Casual Wards’ for vagrants) and the single-storey workroom range to the west of the Infirmary. Remains of the corresponding eastern workroom range are limited to fragments incorporated into the Laundry block of 1933 (E1/E2/E4).

7.   The original T-plan of the main range in Scott and Moffatt’s original scheme soon proved inadequate and further 1- to 2-storey wings (L, M and precursors to Blocks H and I) were soon added, creating an E-shaped plan almost completely enclosing the rear courtyards. Other minor modifications included eastern and northern extensions to the Kitchen (Store (K2) and what may have been a Back Kitchen (scullery?) or Bakehouse (precursor to K3) and small single-storey sheds at each end of the main range (R and precursor of Q). The extent of most of the works carried out by the Witham Union are shown on the 25” OS map, surveyed in 1874-6 (Fig 4).

South Metropolitan District School Board (1882-1900) – (See Figs 5 to 6)

8   According to Higginbotham, Witham Poor Law Union was dissolved in 1883, although the Union workhouse was sold to the South Metropolitan District School Board for use as a residential Poor Law school in 1882 (pers. com. Gyford, cit. LMA SMDS 79). The decision to abolish the Union appears to have been precipitated at least in part by a number of accusations against the Master (pers. com. Gyford, cit. ERO, G/W M1). Its member parishes distributed between the adjacent Braintree and Maldon Poor Law Unions (Higginbotham). The SMDSB was an amalgamation of a number of London Unions, founded by order of the Poor Law Board in 1849. The Witham buildings were used by the SMDSB to establish a school for ‘orphan and deserted children’ from the Board’s area, Camberwell, Greenwich, Woolwich, Stepney etc (pers. com. Gyford, cit. LMA SMDS 79). The SMDSB rapidly demolished many of the exercise yard walls, although the wall separating the male and female sides was retained. They also purchased further lands to the north and west of the site and erected Boys and Girls Schoolrooms (Blocks A1 and D1) and Drying Rooms (Block E3) between 1892-3 and a richly-ornamented ‘New Infirmary’ (recently-demolished H-shaped block to west of the site) in 1897-8. According to the cartographic evidence, they also appear to have been responsible for the extension of the workhouse Toilets / Bath House (Block M). The Witham school was certified to accommodate 200 children, but eventually opinion moved against such large and remote schools and the children were moved away in November 1900 (pers. com. Gyford, cit. LMA SMDS 79). The extent of the works carried out by the SMDSB are generally shown on the 25” OS map, surveyed in 1897 (Fig 5), although this map just missed the construction of the H-plan ‘New Infirmary’ built to the immediate west of the old Union workhouse in 1897-8

9   Metropolitan Asylums Board (1900-1923) – (See Figs 6 to In 1900 the SMDSB sold two of their schools (Witham and the Downs, Sutton, Surrey) to the Metropolitan Asylums Board, an organisation whose institutions have been dubbed as ‘England’s first state hospitals’ (Ayres, 1971). The two institutions were initially used from February 1901 as schools for a maximum of 400 children suffering from the infectious condition of ringworm (RCHME, 1993). By 1906, advances in the treatment of ringworm reduced the need for such establishments and the MAB changed the use of the buildings to an ‘Industrial Home for Feeble Minded Boys’ variously known as the Bridge Industrial School / Bridge Training School / Bridge Training Home (pers. com. Gyford, cit. various local Directories). Part of the site (probably the ‘New Infirmary’ only (Plate 2)) was used by the Red Cross as an orthodox hospital for wounded soldiers and for influenza cases during the 1918 epidemic. The MAB invested in new drains and sanitary facilities in 1901 and this work has provided us with the earliest detailed block plans of the site (Figs 6 & 7). Otherwise few, if any, major building works were carried out by them, although it is just possible that they built Block I. This contradicts the cartographic evidence, which implies that this building was not constructed until during, or after, the Second War, which is most unlikely. This possible cartographic inaccuracy aside, the extent of the buildings, as sold by the MAB are shown on the 25” OS map, surveyed in 1922 (Fig 8).

Royal Eastern Counties Institution (1923-1948) – (See Figs 9 to 11)
10   The Bridge Industrial Home closed in 1922 and the site was sold in 1923 to the Royal Eastern Counties Hospital / Institution, owners of a number of other hospitals including Severalls Hospital in Colchester (pers. com. Gyford, cit. LMA MAB 2272). Under the RECI the site was known as the Bridge Home, apparently serving as a specialised home for the disabled and significant sums were expended by the RECI in the 1930s and 40s in building a Mortuary (Block U), a Medical Superintendent’s house and staff cottages to the south of Hatfield Road and in extending the hospital to the west with two ‘Pavillions for Cripples’, built as late as 1947. Their work may also have included the construction of Block I (see above). Their works certainly included the new boiler houses (B and C1), the modification and extension of the Laundry (Blocks E1-E4) in 1933, a new Scullery (block K3) in 1934, and various small extensions (e.g. D2, J, M, P, Q and T1) (ERO, D/F 8/196, D/F 8/341, D/F 8/353, D/F 8/716 and D/F 8/731). The Essex Record Office holds detailed building plans of the RECI’s Laundry, Scullery, Pavillions, and houses. These documents retain some useful block plans of 1923, 1937 and 1938 (Figs 9, 10 and 11).National Health Service (1948-2002) – (See Figs 12 to 15)

    1. The Royal Eastern Counties Institution became a part of the National Health Service upon the creation of a Welfare State following the post-war Labour landslide. Under the NHS the site was referred to as the Bridge Hospital. The NHS built many new wards and other buildings to the north and west on land purchased by the RECI in 1938 (ERO, D/F 8/716) (Figs 11 and 12 to 15). New works to the old workhouse area were minor, being restricted to the small block S and new Boiler House G. The hospital finally closed in 2002 and all of the buildings outside of the historic core have recently been demolished. The remainder (which is the subject of this assessment) currently stands empty, awaiting renovation and conversion for residential use.
    1. The site has thus had a somewhat unusual history, having passed from the control of the local Poor Law Guardians as early as c.1880, as public concerns were leading to a greater emphasis on the maintenance and care of the unemployed and dispossessed within the community. Whilst it thus ceased to function as a local workhouse, the buildings remained within the Poor Law system, acting as a home for orphans and sick and disabled children from the inner London boroughs for the next 43 years. Rather tellingly, the austere workhouse buildings were so well suited to the remote, institutionalised child-care regime of the period that they remained almost unaltered throughout this period, albeit supplemented by School Rooms and a New Infirmary. The buildings passed back into the local Poor Law system in 1923, still as a children’s home. Again, very few alterations to the workhouse buildings, other than the new Laundry and Scullery, were deemed to be necessary and it was not until immediately after the Second War that purpose-built, single-storey buildings were erected for mobility-impaired children.
    1. Following the creation of the welfare state and National Health Service in 1948, the hospital was greatly enlarged on land acquired in 1938. This ability to construct purpose-built facilities on a greatly-enlarged site spared the workhouse buildings from major alteration, although latterly the large workhouse ‘wards’ or dormitories were partitioned and the building’s décor was made considerably less austere. It would thus seem fair to say that the long-term use of the former workhouse as a residential children’s home has spared it from many of the pressures that have significantly altered many other former Poor Law institutions that passed into more medical uses.
    2. Because of its history, the former workhouse complex has survived as one of the least altered of the Scott / Moffatt workhouses nationally and arguably the least altered within Essex. Because of this, and because of Scott’s later reputation as one of the finest architects in Victorian England, the entrance block (Block T) and main range (Block O) are Listed Grade II. Subsequent to this Listing, the site has been studied as part of a thematic survey of former Poor Law buildings in Essex (Garratt, 1998). This report concluded that Scott / Moffatt’s more architecturally-distinguished Billericay and Dunmow Union workhouses should be considered as being amongst four Essex workhouses of national significance, on account of their architectural distinction and relative completeness. The Garratt report identified Scott/ Moffatt’s less elaborate Union workhouses at Tendring and Witham as being two of eight former workhouses in Essex of regional significance. Of these two, Witham is the better preserved. It is of particular interest as a very early Scott building and as one of his most functional (compared, for example, with the Midland Hotel of St Pancras station). The Garratt report specifically mentions the importance of the 1897-8 Boys School Room (Block A1) and the original Infirmary (Block F), and recommended their treatment as important curtilage buildings.
    1. The buildings are currently proposed for conversion………..
    1. Detailed proposals are not yet to hand…….
    1. The study was carried out by Rob Kinchin-Smith M.Soc.Sc, and the author would like to acknowledge the assistance of Janet Gyford (‘the historian of Witham’), Vanessa Clarke at the Heritage and Advice Promotion Team (HAMP) of Essex County Council and Kathryn Morrison at the Royal Commission for Historic Monuments of England. Readers are referred specifically to Kathryn Morrison’s research, appended to this Volume (Appendix 4).




    1. The proposal are currently not available follows:




    1. The primary aim of the study is to provide preliminary information to inform the planning authorities in their consideration of an application for planning permission for the conversion of the former workhouse……
    1. The second aim of the study is to understand the evolution of the plan-form of the site, assess the survival of features and structures, in particular the methods of construction, materials, original internal and external fixtures and fittings, phasing, room functions, decor, dimensions, status and any other aspect pertaining to its use.
    1. The third aim of the study is to enable the significance of the buildings to be assessed in the light of their survival in comparison with other buildings of the same type in Essex and nationally.





4.1     The methods employed in the study were documentary searches, site visit and photographic recording.


4.2     A brief survey of the available literature has been undertaken, including a search of the documents in the Essex County Public Records Office, the National Monuments Records and plans held by the client. Archives relating to South Metropolitan District School Board (1882-1900) and the Metropolitan Asylums Board (1900-1923) at the London Metropolitan Archives (LMA SMDS and LMA MAB respectively) were not consulted as salient information from these has already been gathered by Janet Gyford and no plans or building plans appear to have survived. Two microfilm jackets of hospital records (1930-1962) relating to Royal Eastern Counties Institution on the Welcome Trust Hospital Records Database at the Public Record Office (PRO, DT 35/134) were not consulted as they are not yet on public access. Kathryn Morrison of the RCHME was also consulted during the writing of this report and her paper on Scott and Moffatt’s workhouses is appended to this report (Appendix 4). A full list of documents consulted is given in the bibliography.


    1. The brief requires the description of the structures to be related to their architectural and historical importance. For most buildings on the site only a summary discussion is attempted, based on internal and external examination. Detailed internal inspection was made of all of the buildings of the early workhouse and all of its associated structures, excepting Block D (1892-3 SMDSB Girls’ School Room and 1930s RECI Mattress Shop). It was not possible to gain entry to parts of Block C (1920s-30s RECI Boiler House), part of Block M (late-C19th SMDSB Bath House), Block T1 (1930-40s RECI toilets), Block U (1930s-40s RECI Mortuary) and part of Block S (early-post-war NHS asbestos roofed building). All buildings were subjected to detailed external study however. Apart from the RECI Mortuary, there were no spaces that could not either be entered or viewed through windows.4.4      A full set of detailed plans and elevations produced by the prospective developer formed the basis of the fabric survey. They were marked up and annotated on site, noting building materials, evidence of former uses, alteration (structural breaks, blocked windows, changes of build, replacement of doors windows etc) and any other items of interest indicative of different building phases and former use. The results of the fabric survey were supplemented through the study of readily-available documentary and archive sources, notably those mentioned in the brief or held by Essex Record Office. The fieldwork and reporting were carried out to IFA Standards and Guidance for the archaeological investigation and recording of standing buildings and structures (IFA 2001).




5.1     From the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, the relief of the poor had been the responsibility of each parish by a system of outdoor relief i.e. the payment of money or goods in kind to the poor. Poor harvests in 1596-97 were amongst the worst of the period and contributed to economic depression. There had been an increasing population since the 1520’s and food supplies and employment did not keep pace with this growth. These economic and demographic factors, together with a fall in the real value of wages, led to Parliament passing the Act for Relief of the Poor in 1598. This legislation was substantially repeated in 1601 and became the foundation of the subsequent Poor Law system. The central principle of the 1601 Act was ‘outdoor relief’, raised by levying a poor rate in each parish.


5.2     The provision of outdoor relief became the responsibility of the churchwardens and of the overseers of the poor in each parish with local Justices of the Peace having a supervisory role. This system remained substantially unchanged until the late 18th century.


5.3     The Gilbert Act of 1782 was the first general reform of the Poor Law system. It gave several options to local Poor Law authorities but only if they adopted this legislation. The Act stipulated that they should leave the “impotent” in workhouses, but that the able-bodied poor were to be found employment outside and were to be supported from the poor rate if their wages were inadequate or if employment could not be found. These features were already established practice in many localities by this time.


5.4     Another provision of the Act was that parishes could form themselves into larger groupings to assist in supporting the expense of building and maintaining a workhouse. Before this Act, if parishes wanted to build a parish workhouse, they had to obtain a private Act of Parliament, a lengthy, cumbersome and costly exercise.


5.5     By the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the essentially Elizabethan Poor Law system was coming under increasing pressure from the radical and substantial economic and social changes which came about as the consequence of the agrarian and industrial revolutions of the period. The process produced periods of mass unemployment and increased social and economic dislocation with a consequent increase in general levels of poverty. Local attempts to stem this pressure, such as the “Speenhamland” system introduced in 1795, had little effect.


5.6     The Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 was a radical piece of legislation and swept away the old Poor Law system. The new Act created a central body called the Poor Law Commission for England, Wales and Scotland with three Commissioners (including the reformer Edwin Chadwick) who were responsible for forming Unions of parishes for the purposes of poor relief. Fifteen Assistant Commissioners, who liased with the local authorities, assisted the three Commissioners.


5.7     Groups of parishes were amalgamated into Unions with each Union in turn being administered by a local Board of Guardians. Each Guardian was elected by an open ballot of ratepayers and property owners in each parish. Each voter nominally had to occupy property with an annual rateable value of £40. Justices of the Peace became ex-officio guardians. The activities of the local Boards of Guardians were subject to the supervision of the Poor Law Commission. In practice, the local Boards had considerable autonomy. At Witham the Board of Guardians consisted of 23 elected members representing 17 constituent parishes (Great Coggeshall, Fairstead, Faulkbourn, Feering, Great Baxted, Hatfield Peverill, Inworth, Kelvedon, Little Braxted, Little Coggeshall, Mark’s Hall, Messing, Rivenhall, Terling, Ulting, Wickham Bishop, Witham).


5.8     One of the first tasks of the Boards of Guardians was to provide workhouse accommodation for the reception of those requiring poor relief. In some areas it was possible to take over and adapt one or more of the workhouses which were inherited from the old poor law system. In most areas, as at Witham, it was necessary for the new Unions to build new workhouses


5.9     In southern England, the forming of Unions and the building of workhouses took place between 1835-1840 and proceeded with only sporadic opposition. By contrast, in northern England there was much greater and widespread opposition to this process and in some areas workhouses were not actually constructed until the 1850’s to 1860’s.


    1. The provisions of the 1834 Act which related to the nature of relief to be provided to the poor was set out in a more diluted form in the recommendations of the Poor Law Report which preceded the Act but was also published in 1834. This report was produced by the radical reformer Edwin Chadwick, greatly influenced by the Benthamite philosophy of Utilitarianism whose underlying principle was to bring “the greatest good to the greatest number”. 5.11   To bring about this ideal the provision of poor relief was to be concentrated in large workhouses. Conditions for the workhouse inmates should be worse than that of the lowliest and poorest paid labourer. Only the very destitute would wish to seek admission and thus the “idle poor” would be deterred. The harshness of the workhouse would aim to encourage and exploit the industry and enterprise of the able-bodied poor. Improvidence would be replaced by self-help. The moral climate of society as a whole would be reinforced together with a substantial reduction in the Poor Rates, a motive that undoubtedly was the main incentive for the introduction of this new system.
    1. Conditions in the new workhouses were intended to be harsh. The new and punitive approach to poor relief inaugurated by the 1834 Act was reflected in the layout, organisation, diet, discipline and daily routine of workhouse inmates. It was originally intended, and the authors of the Poor Law Report had recommended, that existing workhouses with separate buildings should be used for different categories of paupers. The practical difficulties for this were too great, so general purpose mixed workhouses became the norm, each built to serve one Union.
    2. From the late 18th century onwards a number of urban parishes had been grouped into “Incorporations” with the purpose of holding all of their poor under one roof and sometimes segregating these people into different classes. This principle was now extended throughout England and Wales. The poor were subject to a process of classification into the ‘deserving’ and ‘un-deserving poor’. The ‘deserving’ or ‘first-class’ poor were people who could not work through no fault of their own and were subdivided into infirm men, infirm women and mothers with infants. The ‘undeserving poor’ were the able-bodied, subdivided into able-bodied men, able bodied women, boys, girls. The buildings were divided into different wings for each type of pauper. Consequently wives and husbands, parents and children became separated.5.14   At Witham there were at least 9 separate courtyards and the original main block (Block O) housed at least 12 separate open ‘wards’ on three storeys, with the four ‘wards’ on the ground floor being ‘Day Rooms’, leaving eight dormitories. The ranges closest to the Master / Matron’s Lodgings were usually set aside for the ‘undeserving’ poor, with the terminal cross-ranges at the extremities being for the ‘deserving’ poor. Elsewhere (Epping) documentation of the sort of difference this might make is reflected in the 13 sick second class paupers assigned to a room whose first class equivalent held only 9. Internal layouts and the arrangement of the yards also reflected such class differences.5.15   In order to deter the ‘idle poor’, the Union workhouse regime was intended to be harsh, but not cruel. There were instances of abuse but workhouses were highly regulated institutions and complaints by inmates were rare, although the difficulties and consequences of complaining in a strict authoritarian regime should be taken into account when assessing the recorded levels of discontent. In many places, however, the workhouse regime was operated with some degree of kindness and compassion. This was particularly the case for the old, the sick and children. 5.16   The education of children in particular was often of a higher standard than comparable outside education and a school master and mistress were employed at Witham from the outset (pers. Com. Gyford, cit. ERP G/W M1). The diet and physical conditions were also often generally of a higher standard than those stipulated by statute and the surviving original Kitchen at Witham (Block K1) is modern for the period, lofty and well-ventilated. Despite these considerations, there was a carefully calculated regime of harshness, monotony, rigid discipline, deprivation and degradation that became the most representative features of the workhouse system. The inmates generally lost their dignity and also the right to vote. This right was not restored until 1918, long after Witham Union workhouse had ceased to house adults.5.17   There were gradual changes in the nature in the poor law system throughout the nineteenth century and early twentieth century. In 1847, following complaints of unaccountability, control of the system passed to a Poor Law Board. The Assistant Commissioners became Poor Law Inspectors. The composition of the workhouse population altered. Initially the intention had been that all outdoor relief to the able-bodied should end, except for those requiring temporary relief for medical reasons. The increased provision of outdoor relief to able-bodied adults meant that they constituted a smaller percentage of the workhouse population from the mid-19th century onwards, and consequently the emphasis on work and the facilities for carrying on work in the workhouse gradually lessened.5.18   After 1850, workhouse inmates tended to be the old, the sick, the handicapped, children and unmarried mothers. There was also an increased shifting population of vagrants and casual workers who were usually kept separate from the other inmates. Conditions in which the inmates lived also gradually changed with increasing differentiation given to different categories of inmate. Unmarried women, for example, tended to be isolated from the other inmates as much as possible. Their poverty was often deemed to be a result of their moral failings rather than attributable to adverse economic circumstances. This may have been reflected at Witham with the provision of two further wings on the women’s side (Blocks N/L). There was also some slight relaxation in the regime for the old and a greater concern was shown for the handicapped. Towards the end of the 19th century, it became increasingly common practice for children to be removed from the workhouse altogether and placed in foster homes or in separate Poor Law or ‘Industrial Schools’, something Witham had become as early as 1882. 5.19   It was in the treatment of the sick that the most significant changes took place. The development of the medical and nursing professions meant that expectations and health standards were rising. Conditions in workhouse wards attracted increasing criticism. Contemporary medical journals such as The Lancet exposed the appalling conditions in the London workhouse infirmaries in the 1860’s and campaigned for improvements. In some Unions, sick wards were amalgamated and reorganised, while in others new infirmaries were built. This appears to be reflected at Witham by the changes to its Infirmary, notably the rapid heightening of its wings into 2-storey buildings very early on, providing considerable further accommodation for sick inmates. A ‘New Infirmary’ was built to the west of the workhouse at Witham in 1896, although this was after the buildings had been taken over by the South Metropolitan District Schools Board for use as a Poor Law school.5.20   In 1871, the Local Government Board took control of the Poor Law system. The Inspectorate was increased in size and education and child welfare became increasingly important concerns of the Boards of Guardians. In urban areas the Unions were controlled by these Boards. In rural areas local magistrates had the right to sit on the boards. By 1894 the only necessary qualification to sit on a Board was 12 months residence. 5.21   The workload and responsibilities of the Boards of Guardians gradually increased such that the local aristocracy and businessmen became reluctant to serve as Guardians. Their functions were enhanced as the country became more urbanised and more organised. Originally responsible for property assessment, the appointment of Registrars and the regulation and distribution of outdoor relief, their burden was later extended to include the enforcement of vaccination and nuisance removal, provision for children and coping with the increasing problems of vagrancy. Until 1894, when the District Councils were established, the Guardians increasingly controlled local affairs.5.22   By 1900, there were strong pressures for change in the administration of workhouses and in the Poor Law system as a whole. The work of individual Victorian philanthropists and various charitable organisations such as the Workhouse Visiting Society had for some time been creating a greater public awareness of the conditions in the workhouses. They campaigned strongly for changes and improvements especially in the treatment of the more vulnerable groups of inmates.
    1. By the end of the century also there were differing social attitudes to understanding the causes of poverty. The work of individuals such as Charles Booth, Seebotham Rowntree and others brought recognition that poverty may not necessarily be the result of the moral shortcomings of the pauper. The extension of the franchise in 1867 and 1884 at national level facilitated the election of members of Parliament who were either sympathetic to, or were drawn from, the working classes. 5.24   At a local level the composition of the Boards of Guardians also changed. The franchise for the election to the Boards was made the same as for parliamentary elections in 1894 and the property qualification (which had been reduced to £5 per year in 1892) was abolished. Working class men and women could now be elected as Guardians. The meetings of the Boards of Guardians were reported in the local press, which had a rapidly growing readership. The provision of elementary education by an Act passed in 1871 had helped to make the Guardians actions known to a wider reading public.5.25   In 1905, the Conservative Government of Arthur Balfour set up a Royal Commission on the Poor Law and the Unemployed. Its members were eventually unable to agree on unified recommendations so in 1909 two reports appeared. The Majority Report recommended thorough reform of the existing poor law system. The Minority Report (whose contributors included early socialists such as Beatrice and Sidney Webb and George Lansbury, later leader of the Labour Party) recommended complete abolition of the Poor Law. No immediate action was taken on either report. 5.26   The introduction by the Liberal Government of old age pensions in 1908, and the state sickness and unemployment insurance schemes in 1911, provided the first basis for an alternative approach to the poor and laid the foundations of the Welfare State. In 1913, it was decreed that workhouses should henceforth be termed “poor law institutions”. In name, the union workhouse had ceased to exist, although its functions continued for a further 35 years.5.27   Before the First World war the Board of Guardians of Poplar in east London (of which George Lansbury had been a member since 1892) had begun to provide outdoor relief to the able bodied poor on a more generous scale than that which was laid down officially. With the onset of mass unemployment from 1921 onwards, the demands on the Poor Law authorities nationally increased rapidly and several Boards of Guardians adopted what came to be known as “Poplarism”, the provision of higher levels of outdoor relief to the unemployed. 5.28   The Government relaxed the pressures on the Boards of Guardians in view of the economic circumstances so that they were able to borrow funds to meet current expenditure. The Poplar Guardians took advantage of this situation to further increase their rates of outdoor relief to the unemployed.   Several of the Poplar Guardians were eventually jailed because they failed to meet their contribution to the common fund for the relief of the poor in London as a whole (specifically the police precepts) because of their concern to increase expenditure to meet local needs.5.29   In 1926 Neville Chamberlain, the then Minister of Health in the Conservative Government of Stanley Baldwin, secured passage through Parliament of the Board of Guardian’s (Default) Act. The Act allowed him to assume direct control of the administration of poor relief in Unions where it was considered that the Guardians were defaulting on their duties by distributing too much relief to the unemployed.5.30   The administrative structure of the Victorian Poor Law was finally dismantled by the Local Government Act of 1929. The Boards of Guardians were dissolved from March 1930 onwards and their responsibilities were transferred to Public Assistance Committees of the county and county borough councils. The poor law institutions became known as “Public Assistance Institutions”. Some former workhouses were converted into more specialised purposes, but most remained in place with essentially the same functions and the same groups of inmates until after the Second World War.5.31   The last Poor Law (Amendment) Act was passed in 1938. The Poor Law was finally brought to an end by the National Assistance Act of 1948 that helped to inaugurate the modern welfare state. Since that time, many former workhouse buildings have been demolished, others have been allowed to fall into dereliction, while still more have been converted to serve other purposes such as hospitals and asylums.




Note: The workhouse is aligned roughly northeast – southwest. For ease of description, a site north is used throughout this document, where the site entrance is south and the old Infirmary (Block F) is north.



6.1       A principal source of information for Witham and other Essex workhouses is Tina Garratt’s Essex Poor Law Buildings : Comparative Survey of Modern/Industrial Sites and Monuments, carried out for Essex County Council Archaeological Advisory Group in 1997 and published in 1998. Kathryn Morrison, author of The Workhouse (English Heritage 1999) of the Royal Commission on Historic Monuments of England has been consulted. Other sources were documents held at the Essex Record Office (ERO) and modern plans provided by the client.


Witham Union Workhouse (c.1837-1880) – (See Figs 2 to 4)

    1. The modern hospital grew from the Witham Union Workhouse, which was the construction of which was commenced in August 1837, only three years after the passing of the Poor Law Amendment Act. A very noticeable feature of site chosen for the Witham Union workhouse is its proximity to the town it served, the site lying on the main Hatfield Road (old A12) only just beyond the then extent of the urban edge. This is in marked contrast to the ‘twin’ workhouse at Tendring, located on Tendring Heath, some 2km from the village of Tendring. The plot originally purchased was barely big enough for the workhouse, exercise yards and a modest walled kitchen garden. The constricted nature of the site meant that there was little land available for a workhouse farm, although there was a small plot set aside for cultivation the east of the workhouse (Fig 3). The entrance block was set back from the Hatfield Road by a mere 15 metres and no attempt was made to screen it from the road, there originally being only a low wall surmounted by ornamental railings and few ornamental trees (Plate 1). This openness is in distinct contrast to many other workhouses, Tendring included, where the location appears to have been intended to isolate the building from its human environment.6.3    The architects Scott and Moffatt were commissioned to design the building, which was based on a variant of Kempthorne’s cruciform plan, one of 4 model plans published by the Poor Law Commissioners in their first Annual Report. Scott and Moffatt designed other Essex workhouses at Billericay, Dunmow and Tendring, and who were assiduous designers of workhouses around the country. Kathryn Morrison lists 44 in her recent paper on their poor law institution work (Morrison 1997, included here as Appendix 4), and elements of the Witham layout can be elucidated with reference to some of their other workhouses, although surviving historic plans are now extremely rare. Morrison illustrates three examples in her article (Williton (1836) and Launceston I & II (1838)). These plans are considered by Morrison to be reasonable models for the layouts adopted by Scott and Moffatt in their earlier designs.6.4     Scott and Moffatt’s standard design was a variation on Kempthorne’s model ‘cruciform-within-a-square’ plan. Kempthorne’s design shows a three-storey cross-shaped building with a central hexagonal tower, with single storey buildings enclosing the 4 yards. The outer walls of the single-storey buildings are blind, producing a forbidding outlook and a containing effect. The central tower enabled the Master and Matron to observe all the yards from the windows of their quarters (the panopticon effect) and to control all the rooms radiating out from this hub. The design also effectively segregated the sexes, with males on one side and females on the other, both indoors and out. The usual functions of the rooms surrounding the yards reflected this separation of the genders, with sewing, laundry and other “female” pursuits accommodated on one side, with “male” pursuits (E.G. oakum / rag picking or stone breaking) on the other. There was no communication between the two sides except internally through the Master & Matron’s quarters or externally through doors at the base of the tower. The entrance block was more elaborate than the deliberately austere inmates’ quarters and, as at Witham, usually housed the Guardians’ Boardroom.
    1. In their standard layout, Scott and Moffatt rejected a number of the features of the Kempthorne cruciform-in-a-square model, in particular its rigorously-radial layout and complete lack of any outward-facing fenestration. Their schemes, as illustrated by Witham workhouse, instead usually consisted of: 1) a long entrance block (Block T), with functional, corridor-like, single storey lean-tos to the rear (T3 and T6) (said by Kathryn Morrison to have usually temporarily housed newly-arrived inmates or ‘Probationers’). 2) A parallel main workhouse accommodation range (Block O) with a central octagonal tower housing the Master & Matron’s Lodgings (Block O3) with male and female accommodation ranges (Blocks O2 and O4 and terminal cross ranges O1 and O5) and a projecting Kitchen block (K1) to the rear. 3) Walled exercise yards (all walls now lost). 4) An Infirmary (Block F), with projecting single-storey Laundry and Workshop ranges (the demolished west range and much-rebuilt E1/E2/E4). All of these features appear to have been part of the original build at Witham.
    2. The earliest plans of the Witham Union workhouse appears to be the small-scale depiction on the 1839 Tithe Award Map (Fig 2), which was being surveyed as the workhouse was approaching completion, and the Witham Town Plan (Fig 3), which shows the building immediately following its completion. The only significant detail difference between these plans is that the Tithe Map (which was surveyed during the construction of the workhouse) omits to show the projecting Kitchen block. This is clearly shown on the slightly later Witham town plan however, and it seems certain that the surviving Kitchen (K1) was in fact also a part of the original Scott / Moffatt plan. Such early small-scale maps as these should not be taken as accurate and detailed representations of building plans plan, but the original layout may be tentatively deduced from them, the 1874 OS map and other Scott and Moffatt workhouse plans. These sources appear to show that Witham Union workhouse conformed exactly to Scott and Moffatt’s general plan, with the entrance range (Block T) reflecting aspects of both Williton and Launceston (1836 and 1838, reversed), the central ranges also reflecting Williton (but without the extensions to both ends of the terminal cross ranges). The northern ranges also closely reflecting the arrangement carried out at Williton (See Appendix 4). Today, Witham displays better all of the essential features of the Scott / Moffat plan than any of their other surviving Essex workhouses.
    3. As in Scott / Moffatt’s workhouse at Williton and Launceston, there is no spoke from the central tower to the entrance block. Instead walls channelled the incoming visitor to the entrances to the Master & Matron’s residence (Block O3) and the male and female wards to either side (Blocks O2 and O4), isolating them from the two exercise yards (possibly for the aged men and women) that lay between the main- and entrance ranges. Two very small further yards were also attached to the inner ends of the probationer’s lean-tos. To the north of the main block, and separated by the single-storey kitchen (Block K1), were two further exercise yards (male and female), each further sub-divided in two by walls, thus segregating adults from children. A seventh walled yard, connecting the Kitchen to the Infirmary, lay between the male and female sides. This, and two yards to the rear of the Infirmary (Block F1-F3), may have provided exercise space for the male and female sick (and possibly also the mothers with infants). To the east lay a walled garden / service courtyard (which probably also housed the segregated ‘Casual Wards’ for vagrants), with a further small plot further east to serve as a kitchen garden. These are shown clearly on both maps.
    4. The 1874 OS map (Fig 4), which may be relied on with significantly greater confidence, shows a number of changes from both the classic Scott / Moffatt plan as well as from the layout shown on the earlier maps. Most noticeably, the T-shaped layout of the main and Kitchen ranges has been supplemented with further east and west ranges, creating an E-shaped plan in place of the original T-plan. The eastern of these ranges survives (Blocks L / N) today, whilst a photograph has survived showing the western range (precursors of Block H / I) (Plate 2). These blocks are/were single- and two-storey ranges, but it is noticeable that, whilst the symmetry of the original Scott / Moffat plan-form has been retained, the perfect symmetry of the building heights and elevational layouts shown in the initial grand design has started to break down somewhat. Thus, the western range appears to have been a single-storey building (Plate 2), whilst the eastern range had (and still has) has a large two-storey element (Block N) housing two further wards / dormitories. The single storey element (Block L) appears to have been for female toilets / baths.
    5. The other new feature shown is the addition of two small single-storey sheds (Block R and precursor of Q), located at either end of the main range and partially enclosing the east and west ends of the exercise yards located between the main- and entrance ranges. These may have been ‘Sanitary Annexes’, containing washing facilities / toilets. Again the plan-form achieved here is entirely symmetrical, although we now have no certain evidence to show that elevational treatments were identical, although they probably were.
    6. All of these changes were carried through with local red-red-brown stock brickwork and all other constructional details closely mirrored those of the original Scott / Moffatt ranges, implying a nearly contemporary date. Detailed study of the built fabric reveals also that the east and west Infirmary wings (Blocks F2 / F3) were built as single-storey structures and that these were raised to two storeys, apparently during construction or shortly thereafter. The exact reasons and dates for these extensions should be contained within the Witham Guardian’s minutes, but it is clear that they will reflect the changing requirements and pressures on the services of the workhouse, notably increasing concerns about the care of the sick and elderly. It is of note that, even though the new east and west ranges formed the boundary of the workhouse site, they have / had windows on both sides, a marked contrast from Kempthorne’s model workhouse plans, that were entirely un-fenestrated on their external walls. This also appears to have been a feature of parts of the original Scott / Moffat designs for the Witham Union, notably the eastern and western terminal cross-ranges at the ends of the main range (Blocks O1 and O5).
    7. Apart from the loss of the northern, single-storey, workshop range that lay to the west of the infirmary and the exercise yard walls, most of the buildings of the Scott / Moffatt original design have survived, at least in part. The remains of the corresponding Laundry range (E1/E2/E4) to the east of the Infirmary are now somewhat fragmentary however, following the reconstruction of the Laundry in 1933. Aspects of their original form may be deduced from surviving survey drawings of the Laundry made at this time (Figs 22 to 24), whilst the height and roof profile of the lost western range may still be discerned from a scar on the western end of Block F2 (Plates 33b & 33d). The remainder of the Scott / Moffatt buildings currently survive in a remarkably un-altered state, most notably the main- and entrance blocks (T and O – Plates 3-7 & 10-20), although the western of the single-storey, Probationer’s lean-to ranges (T3) has suffered some unfortunate re-walling and re-fenestration (Plate 4f). The surviving slightly-later workhouse buildings (Blocks N, L and R – Plates 27-30 & 21e-f) are also still recognisable although the small Block R (the possible Sanitary annex) and has suffered modern re-fenestration.
    8. The functions of the rooms in the original institution can be deduced from other Scott and Moffatt schemes where documentary evidence for them exist, notably Williton (1836) and Launceston (1838) (See Appendix 4). The entrance was thus through the pedimented arch, flanked to east and west by the Boardroom / Clerk’s Office / Waiting Room / Registry (T5) and a Porter’s Lodge and Chapel (T2). The lean-tos to the rear (T3 / T6) would have been for housing new inmates awaiting classification (the ‘Probationers’ rooms), with toilets at the outer ends. The main block would have housed the Master & Matron’s Lodgings in the central octagon/tower, with the adjoining east and west wings to either side housing the ‘undeserving (i.e able-bodied) poor’ and the terminal cross-ranges at either end housing the ‘first-class’ or ‘deserving’ poor (the aged and infirm). The upper two storeys would have housed the large, open dormitories for each category and the ground floor (which has larger windows) would have housed the day rooms, where the inmates would have been expected to work and eat.
    9. The northern block (Block F) clearly housed the Infirmary, originally flanked by long, single-storey ranges to its east and west housing men’s and women’s workrooms. These flanking ranges have been largely demolished, although one room of the men’s workrooms appaers to have survived at the south end of the ground floor of Block F2. Some fragments of the women’s workrooms have survived, incorporated into the later Laundry (Blocks E1 / E2 / E4 – Figs 20-24 & Plate 42). A separate area again (possibly within a separate eastern courtyard (now lost) may have housed the ‘Casual Wards’ for vagrants. Part of the Infirmary may have housed ‘Refractory Wards’ (for uncontrollable inmates), although later re-fenestration of the ground floor has removed the usual evidence (e.g. small windows with bars). The maps consistently show the division of the yards, maintaining the separation of the ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ poor, sub-divided by age and gender, an essential part of the workhouse regime. It is noticeable that the position of some of these walls changes over time for functional reasons (e.g. restricting access to the Kitchens or Laundry), but the number of yards remain constant to 1874. Further detail on the precise evolution and uses of the site’s buildings during its time as a classic workhouse would have to be gleaned from the detailed study of the eleven volumes of Guardian’s minutes housed at the Essex Record Office.  South Metropolitan District School Board (1882-1900) – (See Figs 5 to 7)
    12. The OS map of 1897 (Fig 5) and two block plans of 1901 (Figs 6 and 7) show most of the alterations brought about by the change of use of the buildings by the South Metropolitan District School Board between 1882 and 1900, although they do not show the H-plan ‘New Infirmary of 1897-8. The strict segregation of boys and girls is still apparent, but most of the other exercise yard walls have been swept away. The SMDSB carried out few alterations to the original workhouse buildings but the OS plan clearly shows the documented SMDSB additions of 1892-3 (Boys & Girls School Rooms (A1 / D1) and the new Drying Room (E3)). It also shows a SMDSB extension to the Toilet / Bath House block (Block M). It is worth noting that this is on the girls’ side of the establishment. These buildings are all executed in red brick, in contrast to the browner brick of the Union workhouse phase. Apart from the recently-demolished ‘New Infirmary’ of 1897-8, all of these buildings survive in a recognisable state, the Boys’ School Room (Block A1 – Plate 37) and the Girls’ Toilet / Bath House extension block (M – Plate 30d-g) surviving almost un-altered. The Drying Room (E2 – Plate 43) and the Girls’ School Room (Block D1 – Plate 38a-d) have suffered subsequent re-roofing with unattractive flat roof however. The uses of some spaces by the SMDSB may be inferred from two Metropolitan Asylums Board Plans of 1901 (Figs 6 and 7), but further detail would have to be gleaned from detailed study of minutes and other SMDSB/MAB written documents in the London Metropolitan Archives.
    13. Metropolitan Asylums Board (1900-1923) – (See Figs 6 to 9)
    14. Detailed study of historic maps (Figs 6, 7 and 8) and the fabric of the extant buildings reveals that very few changes were carried out by the Metropolitan Asylums Board during their tenure of the site. Apart from showing the SMDSB’s ‘New Infirmary’, the only visible additions shown between 1897 and 1922 are a small extension to Block L (northern bay) and a Swimming Pool added to the west of the present Block I. This may provide a clue to the origin of Block I itself. This building first appears on the OS map of 1953 (Fig 12), although, stylistically such a late date would appear to be most unlikely. Whilst it clearly post-dates the First War (Plate 2), this building appears to belongs to the period 1900 to late-1920s (Plate 23). Its architectural style is somewhat different to the RECI ‘industrial’ style of the 1930s (e.g. the reconstituted Laundry of 1933 (Block E) or the Scullery of 1934 (Block K3)) and to the slightly showier style of the more formal RECI buildings of the 1940s (e.g. the Mortuary – Block U). It is thus possible that this single building was the principal architectural contribution of the MAB, although this currently seems unlikely. The only useful information on building uses under the MAB is contained in the block plans of 1901 and 1923 (Figs 7 and 9). These shows that by the later date the former Board Room etc in the eastern block of the entrance range (Block T5) had become ‘House’. Further detail would have to be garnered from the MAB minutes and sundry other papers housed at the London Metropolitan Archives.
    15. Royal Eastern Counties Institution (1923-1948) – (See Figs 8 to 11)
    16. In 1923 the site was purchased by the Royal Eastern Counties Institution, a large hospital Institution that had grown from the late 19th– and 20th-century changes in Poor Law provision and owners of a number of other hospitals including Severalls Hospital in Colchester (pers. com. Gyford). The Bridge Home appears to have been a specialised home for boys and significant sums were expended by the RECI in the 1930s and 40s in constructing new buildings outside of the former workhouse site. These included a Mortuary (Block U – Plate 9f-g)), a Medical Superintendent’s house and staff cottages to the south of Hatfield Road and in extending the hospital to the west with two purpose-built ‘Pavillions for Cripples’, built as late as 1947. The RECI also carried out a number of alterations within the former workhouse site. Their work may have included the construction of Block I (see above) and it certainly included the new boiler houses (B and C1 – Plates 39a-d & 40), the modification and extension of the Laundry (Blocks E1-E4 – Plate 41) in 1933, a new Scullery (Block K3 – Plate 26d-g) in 1934, and various small extensions (e.g. D2, J, M, P, Q and T1) (ERO, D/F 8/196, D/F 8/341, D/F 8/353, D/F 8/716 and D/F 8/731). 6.17  The hospital passed to the NHS upon its formation in 1948. The NHS massively extended the hospital to the north, on lands purchased by the RECI in 1938 (Figs 11 and 12 to 15). New works to the old workhouse area were very limited however, being largely restricted to the small Block S (plate 9a-d) and new Boiler House G (Plate 39e-f). The old buildings in the historic core were left almost unaltered, apart from redecoration, the insertion of partitions / suspended ceilings and the replacement of doors to conform with fire regulations. The hospital finally closed in 2002 and most of its site has recently been cleared. The historic core of the site, including the Grade II Listed former workhouse and entrance block, currently stands empty, awaiting refurbishment and conversion for residential use.
    17. National Health Service (1948-2002) – (See Figs 12 to 15)
    18. The records of the RECI and HNS are generally not on public access. The uses of the various buildings have been adequately ascertained from building plans at the Essex Record Office, although further detail would be gained from a survey and report published in 1930 by the Essex Public Assistance Committee. This report includes a medical officer’s report and an architect’s report for most of the Poor Law institutions in the County. The architect’s report will be accompanied by a block plan with the functions of each block identified, whilst the medical officer reported on the medical facilities available at each institution. The Committee also visited every Poor Law Institution in Essex and recorded their observations in the Minute Books.



7      DESCRIPTION (I) – Introduction & Southern Ranges (Blocks T, S and U)

       (See Fig. 16 and Plates 3 to 9)


Note:   The workhouse is aligned roughly northeast – southwest. For ease of description, a site north is used throughout this document, where the site entrance is south and the old Infirmary (Block F) is north.


General Introduction

    1. This section describes all of the extant structures on site. All of the structures were accessed externally and of those few that could not be accessed internally (Blocks C1 (part), D1/D2, G, T1 and U), only two 1940s buildings (Blocks T1 and U) could not be viewed through windows. The site is currently unused, and some buildings have recently suffered the theft of slates and ridge tiles. As yet there is very little evidence of vandalism internally. The site is currently protected by security fences, padlocked gates, blocked window openings and doors and screwed down window fastenings. Vegetation has not yet become a problem and all of the buildings remain in a structurally sound condition. The old workhouse Infirmary shows considerable evidence of an aborted refurbishment, apparently following a long period of decline and disuse. This work was clearly carried out in a manner cognisant of its historical interest, although it may be considered to have been somewhat heavy-handed in its execution. The entrance block and main range are Listed Grade II, although the Garratt report of Essex County Council makes the recommendation that both the Boys School Room (Block A1) and the Infirmary (Block F) should be treated as curtilage buildings.
    2. The following description is divided into three sections. It starts with the street frontage, main workhouse entrance range (Block T) and two later southern blocks, Blocks S and U. The second section will deal with the main workhouse range (Block O) and its various extensions and connected ranges. The third section will deal with the northern blocks, including the old workhouse Infirmary. Only summary descriptions are given of later buildings. The interiors are described as far as it was possible to access them.Introduction – Southern Ranges
    4. The southern ranges are centred on the original and little-altered Scott / Moffatt 1837-9 entrance range (Block T – Plates 3-8). This is an attractive single-storey range with a central archway, designed with classical motifs in the manner of a polite estate building. By comparison to known Scot / Moffat plans, the two sides of the entrance range originally housed Porter’s Room / Registry / Guardian’s Board Room / Clerk’s Office and Waiting Room / Porter’s Room and Chapel. To the rear are more functional, single-storey lean-tos, said to have housed new inmates awaiting assessment (Probationers) (Blocks T3 and T6 – Plates 4d-h & 7a-c). Apart from some minor additions, this block is relatively complete. The other southern blocks are considerably later. One is an attractively-built Mortuary (Block U – Plate 9f-g), constructed in a pre-NHS vernacular, apparently dating to the late 1930s or 1940s. The other is a corrugated asbestos roofed building (Block S – Plate 9a-d). This building is constructed in manner that suggests that it was never intended as permanent building. It is thought to be an early NHS structure.

Street Frontage and Approach

    1. The building was originally approached by a short drive, c.15m long, whose plan is still partially preserved by the modern tarmac. The street frontage originally consisted of a low wall surmounted by railings (Plate 1) but today there is only a later, low brick wall, the original wall and railings probably having been removed during the wartime scrap drive (Plate 3a-c). The original planting would appear to have been sparse and the randomly-placed conifers shown on the 1874 OS map (Fig 4) have been lost. There remain some very good mature specimens of horse-chestnut towards the eastern and western ends of the street frontage however. Entrance Block (Block T1 to T6)                                                            (See Fig 16 & Plates 3-9)
    2. General Description
    5. The entrance block consists of a double-height entrance archway (T4), flanked by single storey blocks to east and west (T2 and T5). It is built of local red-red-brown stock brick, with pillaster treatment and projecting bays on the street elevation. The whole is Listed Grade II. Each wing is of 2:2:1 window range with original arch-headed, small-pane, double-hung sashes to all forward facing windows and windows. These are set within plain reveals with semi-circular brick arched heads. There is an interrupted stone string-course at impost level, which continues across former doorways and between pilasters. The primary doorways under round heads retain cast-iron fanlights (plate 6c & 8e). To the rear there are original, single-storey scribed-rendered lean-tos (T3 and T6 – Plates 4f-h & 7a-c) and two small late-19th-/early-20th-century brick Toilet extensions (Plates 4e & 6f). A mid-20th-century extension (T1), laterly used as Toilets, completes the west end of the west range (Plates 4a-c). This latter is carefully executed, in an attempt to match the remainder of the entrance block.
    6. Block T4 – Entrance Gateway                                                                    (See Fig 16 & Plate 3)
    7. The double-height entrance gateway (T4) is centrally placed in the 1837-9 front. It is built of red-brown brick under a slate roof, with an Italianate pediment. This is rather grandly expressed with deep stone cornices to the street elevation but has a more modest brick cornices on the internal (workhouse) side. The pediment was formerly inscribed ‘Bridge Industrial Home’ (Plate 1). Unlike Tendring, this entrance archway remains open, beneath a round-headed archway with alternate large voussoirs and a large keystone gate facing outwards towards the street. On the inner (workhouse) side there is a correspondingly simpler round-headed brick arch. The gateway retains its original wrought-iron gates and lock. Within the entrance arch are two doorways, which originally accessed a Porter’s Room (east) and a Porter’s Room / Visitor’s Waiting Room (west) (both ‘Porter’s Lodge in 1901 and both ‘Offices’ in 1937). Both entrances retain their original doors and doorcases. The simple door surround to the eastern Porter’s Room (Plate 3d) and the elaborate surround to the western Porter’s Room / Waiting Room (Plate 3f) appear to be original. The floor of the entrance arch is laid with square brick paviors, which may be original. Concrete has been used to patch this floor.
    8. Block T1/T2/T3 – Entrance Block, West Range                                       (See Fig 16 & Plates 4-5)
    9. The western range (T2) originally housed the workhouse Chapel (still ‘Chapel’ in 1923 and ‘3rd Class’(room) in 1937) and the western Porter’s Room / Waiting Room. Also associated are the supposed Probationers lean-to (T3) and c.1900 Toilet additions to the rear and the mid-20th-century Toilet extension (T1) to the west. The mid-20th-century Toilet extension (T1) (Plates 4a-c) has been relatively carefully designed so as to match the brickwork of the original entrance, although it of a slightly redder brick, with a soldier lintel and single-pane double-hung sashes. It is uncertain when it was constructed, although it does not appear on any maps prior to 1953 (Fig 12). This may be a cartographic error. The lintels imply a building later than the known pre-war RECI structures which have rubbed brick lintels (e.g. Block Q), but it seems improbable that the NHS would have bothered with timber double-hung sashes in the years of post-war austerity. It retains no features of interest internally. It is worth noting that one of the doors at the west end is a later insertion however (plate 4b). The former Chapel (T2) would originally have been partitioned into male and female sides by a 6-foot high partition, with a central pulpit. The partition and pulpt have been removed but the room remains undivided, although it has suffered conversion to a hospital social club. This involved inserting a suspended ceiling (Plate 5a-e) and the cutting of a large hole through the north wall to accommodate the bar counter. It still retains a number of original features. These include an elaborate timber and iron roof still visible above the modern suspended ceiling above the projecting bay facing the street (Plate 5d), probably the location of the pulpit and any altar. It also retains original deep, moulded skirtings and window/door surrounds (Plate 5b) throughout. The plasterwork also appears to be original, with moulded arrisses (Plate 5c). The projecting bay facing the street was formerly divided from the remainder of the Chapel by some kind of timber and glass screen. This has been removed below modern ceiling level, but remains in-situ above (Plate 5e). This feature may be an addition of the later 19th Century, although this is currently unclear.
    10. The Western Porter’s Room / Waiting Room retains original plasterwork with reeded arrisses and original window surrounds. The fireplace has been lost and it is uncertain whether the plain skirtings are original. The fuse cupboard and internal lobby are modern. The Western Probationer’s lean-to (T3) (Plate 4f-h) retains its original roof and lath and plaster ceilings throughout (Plate 5f), although the walls of its eastern half are clearly post-war replacements. The walls of the western half of the building appear to be primary, with (probably later) scribed-rendered walls, one original small-pane, double-hung sash window and one original, planked 2-leaf ‘stable’-door with original, hand-forged T-hinges (Plate 4h). The scribed render recurs in the former Laundry in parts that date to the tenure of the SMDSB (1880-1900), notably Block E3. It is thought that it is an SMDSB feature. Internally the western half of the building retains cross walls and partitions that appear primary, whilst a small room between the beer cellar and the meat safe retains a horizontally-boarded lining that may also be primary. The westernmost room of the lean-to, now a cold store, housed WCs in 1901 (Fig 6) and almost certainly did originally. The small projecting Toilet adjacent tio the entrance gateway (Plate 4e), is not shown on any plan before 1937, although the legend ‘WC’ is marked here on a drainage plan of 1901 (Fig 6) and it does appear to be of about this date. The toilet retains no original sanitary ware, but the double-hung sash window, door and architraves appear to be the originals of c.1900. It is thought to be a Metropolitan Asylums Board structure.Block T5/T6 – Entrance Block, East Range                                                   (See Fig 16 & Plates 6-8)
    11. The eastern range formerly housed a Porter’s Room (mentioned above) as well as the Guardian’s Board Room, Registry, Clerk’s Office / Strong Room and two separate lobbies for the Boaord and for new inmates (‘Board Room’ in 1901, ‘House’ in 1923 and ‘Head Nurse’s House’ in 1937) (Figs 7, 9 and 10). The Registry was where new inmates were classified prior to entering the workhouse proper. As with the western range, the lean-to at the rear (Block T6 – Plates 7a-c & 8f-h) is thought to have originally been used to house new inmates awaiting assessment (‘probationers’).   The main block (T5) retains all of its its original internal walls and door-cases, dividing the various spaces of Porter’s Room, Registry, Board Room, Clerk’s Office / Strong Room and inmates and Board lobbies. The probationer’s lean-to is slightly more altered, but much better preserved than the western lean-to (above).
    12. The southernmost room in the East Range, leading off the entrance gateway, is thought to have been the Porter’s Room. It retains original deep, moulded skirtings, door, cupboards/dresser (Plate 7d) and an original round-headed, small-pane, double-hung sash window with original surround. The tall sash window to the rear is inserted, dating to c.1900, whilst the fireplace has been lost. A recently-blocked door leads to an internal lobby (New Inmates Entrance ?). This connecting doorway does not have the deep, late-Georgian / early-Victorian type of door-case found elsewhere, but instead has plain chamfered architrave, of a type only found elsewhere in the Laundry (Block E), which was much rebuilt in 1933. This doorway is presumed to be inserted. The lobby retains plain skirtings (possibly secondary) and an original door (with cast-iron fanlight) to the exterior. This lobby connects both to the Board Room as well as to a small room that is thought to have been the Registry (plain skirtings -possibly original, lost fireplace, blocked door through to Probationers lean-to (T6)).
    13. The Board Room (plates 7e-g) itself retains deep, moulded skirtings (probably original), original plasterwork with reeded arrisses, original window surrounds and door-cases and two original 4-panel doors. A drain plan of 1901 (Fig 6) shows a ‘Lavy’ in the south-eastern corner of the projecting bay of the Board Room, although there is now no trace of any former partitioning visible today. One of the two surviving 4-panel doors leading off the Board Room connects to a Toilet (apparently originally the Board Entrance Lobby), which retains a late-19th / early 20th-century toilet partition and what was originally an external door with cast-iron fanlight, latterly adapted to a window (plates 8d-e). The other 4-panel door leading off the Board Room (Plate 7g) accesses what appears to have been the Clerk’s Office (Plates 8a-c). This retains a boarded wainscott (possibly original but more likely late-19th-century), an original but blocked fireplace, wrought-iron panelled doors to the Strong Room (Plate 8c) set into the probationer’s lean-to and original plasterwork with reeded arrisses. The eastern doorway leading to the exterior is inserted into an original window opening.
    14. The Eastern Probationer’s lean-to (T6) to the rear of the East Range (Plate 7a-c) retains its original roof and lath and plaster ceilings throughout (Plates 8f-h). The walls appear to be primary, excepting the part-glazed west end, that appears to date to the early years of the 20th Century (Plate 7a). The walls are again scribed-rendered externally and internally, concealing most evidence of any early interventions. As discussed in the section on the western Probationer’s lean-to (above), the scribed render is thought that it is an SMDSB feature. The four-panel external door connecting to the Board Room appears to have been inserted in the early 20th Century. There is one original exterior planked door with hand-forged hinges (Plate 7b) and two small original window openings, one with its original 9-pane window (Plate 7c). Towards the eastern end there are cracks in the render beneath an inserted window revealing the presence of a blocked door. This would have accessed a small toilet (partition now lost) where 4 WCs are shown in the drainage plan of 1901 (Fig 6). At the extreme western end of the north wall there is a shallow pier (Plate 7a) that was formerly the end of an exercise yard wall that connected to the easternmost of the two piers adjacent to the central door of the main workhouse range (Block O – Plate 10e).
    15. Internally the lean-to retains a boarded ceiling, scribed-rendered walls and the thick walls of the Strong Room (plates 8f-h). The shelves and the cross-wall at the western end appear to be early-20th-century. The small projecting Toilet to the rear (Plate 6f), adjacent to the entrance gateway is not shown on any plan before 1937, although it appears to be roughly contemporary with that to the west (i.e. c.1900). This toilet retains no original sanitary wear, but the double-hung sash window, door and architraves appear to be the originals of c.1900. It is thought to be a Metropolitan Asylums Board structure.

Other Southern Blocks                                                           (See Fig 16 & Plate 9)

    1. Block S. Asbestos-roofed, single-story range, located between the Entrance Range (Block T) and the Main Workhouse Range (Block O). Probably built shortly after the Second War, it is first shown on the OS map of 1953 (Fig 12). Unlike a number of other, probably earlier structures that first appear on the 1953 map, this building is a very credible early NHS structure. Internally it is very little altered, retaining original partitions, doors, windows, skirtings, architraves etc. Of little significance but of some interest as a probable early NHS structure. Not mentioned in List description.7.14  Block U. To the east of the entrance range lies a large, single-storey, red brick building, with a panelled, round-headed arch to each gable and small, high windows to its side walls. The building, which is first shown on the 1953 OS map (Fig 12) is in a distinctive style that is identical to a number of the RECI 1930s and 1940s Wykeham Chancellor (architect) buildings, specifically the now-demolished Pavilions for Criples and the Medical Superintendant’s House and Staff Cottages (ERO D/F 8/353, 716 and 731). It is shown as ‘Mortuary’ on the 1953 map, and it would appear to have always been used as such. It was not accessed internally, but the exterior appears to be entirely in ‘as-built’. Not mentioned in List description.



  • DESCRIPTION (II) – The Central Ranges         (Blocks O, H, I, J, K, L, M, P, Q, R and V)

(See Figs 17-19 and Plates 10-30)



Note: The workhouse is aligned roughly northeast – southwest. For ease of description, a site north is used throughout this document, where the site entrance is south and the old Infirmary (Block F) is north.


Introduction – Central Ranges

8.1    The central ranges are centred on, and connected to, the original Scott / Moffatt workhouse main range, Master & Matron’s Lodgings and terminal cross-ranges (Block O) and the original Scott / Moffatt Kitchen range (Block K1). This main range clearly proved inadequate and eastern and western ranges were soon added. The eastern of these survives today (Blocks L and N), abutted by a late-19th-century girls’ Bath House added by the South Metropolitan District Schools Board (Block M).   The corresponding western range has been lost and its site is now occupied by a fine, 2-storey building, thought to have been erected by the Royal Eastern Counties Institution in the 1920s or 1930s (Block I) and a prosaic and functional flat-roofed single-storey building thought to have been built in the 1970s (Block H). Similarly, the Kitchen block was also added to over time, with extensions of the later 19th-century, 1934 and c.1980s. None of these buildings have suffered much in the way of removal of historic fabric although, like the original Scott / Moffatt Kitchen, the main Scott / Moffatt workhouse range (Block O) has had a number of small extensions added to it over time, mostly in the 1930s-40s.




Main Range and Master / Matron’s Lodgings (Block O1 to O5)                         (See Figs 17-19 & Plates 10-20)

General Description

    1. The main workhouse block (Block O) stands back from the entrance range (Block T). It is also of red-brown stock brick, with slate roofs. It is also Listed Grade II. It has a central 4-storey octagonal tower (Master & Matron’s Lodgings) (Block O3), surmounted with a slate roof and cupola, with alternate sides breaking forward under stone or stucco pediments and a stone/stucco band between the 3rd and 4th floors. To either side of the (possibly original) glazed 4-panel front door (Plate 12a) there are projecting piers (with in-situ wrought-iron lock striker-plates) that are the last remaining intelligible vestige of the walls that formerly divided the various segregated workhouse exercise yards (Plate 10e). The Master & Matron’s Lodgings has original small-pane, double-hung sashes (Plate 12g) throughout (sometimes now with altered glazing bars) and is surmounted with its original bell-cupola. The Master & Matron’s Lodgings are considerably better preserved than that at Tendring, where a flat roof had replaced the original pediments, roof and cupola.
    2. To either side of the central octagon (Master & Matron’s Lodgings) are the main, 3-storey east and west workhouse ranges (O2 and O4), each with a stairwell at either end, accessed by external doors to both principal elevations. There is also evidence of a former external doorway, blocked at an early date, on the ground floor north elevation of Block O4 (Plate 11d). The floors of the main east and west ranges were accessed from the stairwells closest to the Master & Matron’s Lodgings. On the ground floor these two stairwells exited to the exercise yards to north and south via four doorways that retain glazed 4-panel doors that are apparently 19th-century, although it is unclear whether they are original (Plates 12b-c). These main ranges are terminated by 3-storey cross-wings (O1 and O5), accessed via two further stairwells located within the extreme ends of the main ranges. These two stairwells also accessed the exercise yards via four doorways, although these have modern doors set in original doorframes (plate 12d).
    3. Both the main ranges and the cross-ranges are of matching red-brown brick, with original small-pane, centre-pivoting windows to the upper storeys (Plate 12 f) and deeper small-pane, centre-pivoting windows with toplights on the ground floor (Plate 12e). Apart from where abutted by later buildings, the main ranges and cross-ranges appear to be almost completely original and intact, although late-19th– / early-20th-century cast-iron rainwater downpipes and soil pipes somewhat clutter the elevations. Some chimney pots survive, but it is noted that the chimney-breasts serving the two main ranges are early, but secondary, additions (Plate 11f). This is in contrast to the Master & Matron’s Lodgings and the terminal cross-ranges, both of which have integral, original chimney-breasts. In the following description the central hub (Block O3) will be considered first, followed by the wings (O2 and O4) and then the cross wings (O1 and O5). Descriptions of the later minor additions (Blocks J, R, P, Q and V) follow, prior to proceeding onto the Kitchen and other ranges to the rear (Blocks H, I, K, N, L and M).
    4.          Block O3 – Master & Matron’s Lodgings (for exterior, see above)                          (See Figs 17-19 & Plates 10-16)
    5. The octagonal central hub (Master & Matron’s Lodgings – Block O3) is a version of the hexagonal plan recommended in workhouse literature to achieve the panopticon observation effect. It varies from the Kempthorne pattern in that the two projecting wings are set back between projecting angles, a variant developed by Scot and Moffatt at Guildford and used widely by them on their earlier designs (e.g. Louth, Spillsby, Horncastle, Burton on Trent (dem), Williton, Bideford, Gloucester (dem), Liskeard, Tavistock, Tiverton, Bedminster, Witham and Tendring), although it is noted that a number of these are now much altered, including Tendring that has lost its original pediments and roof. This arrangement allowed a much greater flexibility of observation in that the windows in the reverse angles enable occupants of more of the rooms in the hub to see more of the surrounding yards. This would not be an option in workhouses with four projecting wings, which would obstruct such diagonal views into opposite yards, so the architects have taken advantage of the extra sightlines offered by the lack of east and west wings radiating from the hub.
    6. The hub would originally have been occupied by the Master & Matron and his immediate staff. Following the standard Scot / Moffatt plan, the ground floor at Witham was divided into four by corridors linking the side wings in one direction and the original main kitchen (Block K1) and the front yards in the other, although the corridor to the kitchen is now blocked at the crossing. The ground floor rooms were usually Master’s Office, Matron’s Parlour, Household Stores and Pantry/Larder and good evidence of all of these uses is preserved, including cupboards and a surviving alcove for a kitchen range in the Pantry / Larder (Plate14g-h). It is probable that this room served only the Master and Matron (and their families) only. This ‘cross’ plan was repeated on the upper floors, although the exact division of the Master and Matron’s accommodation is currently a little unclear. It is known that, whilst a married couple was preferred, the rooms in the tower were so arranged that the Master and Matron may have ‘perfectly distinct residences, that they still each have a view of all of the yards and have equal facilities for visiting and superintending every department’. There is also a basement (Plates 13-16).
    7. The floors within the Master’s Lodgings are linked by internal timber staircases of primary origin, with turned newels, stick ballusters and swan-neck banisters (plate 14b-c). Between the second and third floors this staircase has a matchboard wainscott (Plate 16a) and an inserted later-19th-century toilet. Most of the rooms within the Master & Matron’s Lodgings survive remarkably ‘as-built’, all with original taurus or plain skirtings (depending on status or use) and deep Georgian / early-Victorian doorcases (Plates 13-16). Generally the plasterwork also appears to be original, higher status rooms retaining reeded arrisses. Whilst most doors retain their original doorcases, primary doors only survive to the cellar (Plate 13) and on the third floor, much of which now houses a water tank (Plate16c-g). Some modern partitions have been inserted, but the original configuration of the rooms may be deduced by following the original picture rails and skirting boards through these later inserted walls.
    8.          Blocks O2 and O4 – Main Range – East and West Ranges (for exterior, see above) (See Figs 17-19 & Plates 17-18)
    9. The main east and west main accommodation ranges comprise large ‘wards’ with stairwells at either end accessing the three storeys of pauper’s accommodation in the main- and terminal cross-ranges. In 1937 the ground floor of Block O2 was ‘4th Class Room’, whilst the ground floor of Block O4 was ‘1st Class Room’. The upper floors are presumed to have been dormitories at this time. According to the standard Scott / Moffatt plan, the ground floor rooms would originally been male and female Day Rooms for the ‘undeserving’ (i.e able-bodied) poor, male to the west and female to the east, with mens’/women’s and boys’/girls’ dormitories above. The stairwells at each end of each block rise right through the building, those closest to the Master & Matron’s Lodgings connecting both to it and the ‘wards’ or dormitories in the main ranges (O2 and O4). The day rooms on the ground floor may have originally each been divided by a cross-partition, although no evidence of any such partitioning survives today.
    10. The stairwells at the opposite ends of the main range connect to both the main range and the cross-ranges. In view of the strict segregation that was a hallmark of workhouses, it is presumed that the stairwells closest to the Master & Matron’s Lodgings were used to access the main ranges, while those at the opposite ends were principally intended to access the terminal cross-ranges (O1 and O5). Unlike the stairs within the Master & Matron’s Lodgings, all four of the staircases located in the main ranges (O2 and O4) have stone treads, mast newels (often) and square, wrought-iron balusters (Plates 17a-d). Unlike at Tendring, all four of these stone staircases are entirely complete and intact, albeit with modern fire doors, partitions and hardboard panelling hiding the iron balusters (Plate 17b).
    11. Four of the eight external (or formerly external) glazed 4-panel doors leading off the four ground-floor landings of the stairwells appear to re historic, although it is unclear whether they are original (Plates 12b-c). Six of the door-frames are clearly primary. All of the internal doorways leading off the stairwells (both to the Master & Matron’s Lodgings and to the inmates day rooms and dormitories in the main- and cross-ranges) retain their original door-cases with toplights (Plate17g). Whilst all of these internal doorways have had modern doors inserted, some of the glazed opening lights above appear to be historic. It is possible that glass toplights were originally provided over the doors connecting to the Master & Matron’s Lodgings, whilst the lights over the doors accessing the day rooms and dormitories in the main- and cross-ranges may originally been provided with hinged, wooden shutters, as were found at Tendring.
    12. The stone staircases occupy the southern half of each stairwell, the northern half of the first- and second-floor landings accommodating a small room. These rooms also remain intact generally intact, although a several have had their doors connecting to the landings repositioned. These small rooms are generally very functional (two retain plain painted brick walls – Plate 17f), although on the second floor one of these small rooms is accessed from the Master & Matron’s accommodation rather than the landing, possibly serving as a dressing room connected to the principal bedroom. Unlike virtually every other window in the workhouse accommodation ranges, this room has a small-pane, double-hung sash window (and it is also furnished with historic skirting boards). There is some evidence that the ground-floor landings were also partitioned, probably to prevent inmates exiting to the wrong exercise yard. Thus the fragmentary remains of an original timber-clad stud partition survive incorporated into the side of a later cupboard on the ground-floor landing of the stairwell to the immediate east of the Master & Matron’s Lodgings (Plate 17e).
    13. The original day rooms on the ground floor and the dormitories above are generally very similar to one another, although it is worth noting that the ground-floor day rooms have deeper windows with toplights (Plate 12e), those in Block O4 also having flat window cills (as Block O1, O5 and H) and moulded stepped surrounds (as Block O5 and H) (Plate18d-e). All of dormitories were probably completely undivided originally, although all were eventually subdivided to a lesser or greater extent under the NHS. All now have modern suspended ceilings also (Plate 18a). It seems probable that the supposed male and female Day Rooms on the ground floors and the Dormitories on the two upper storeys have always been plastered throughout, although it would be necessary to remove some plaster to establish this conclusively. There is thus a likelihood that the later paint schemes overlie those of the workhouse period with painted moral and religious tracts extolling Victorian virtues possibly lying concealed beneath. The suspended ceilings in the second floor Dormitories hide painted roof trusses and plaster ceilings with old (but not original) paintwork (Plate 18b).
    14. On the upper two floors (the Dormitories), the window surrounds are simply plastered, with sloping plastered cills (Plate 18f), as is to be found on the ground floor of Block O2 (Plate 18c) and throughout Blocks O1, O2, O4, O5, J and H. There is no evidence of there ever having been skirtings, architraves etc in any of the main spaces on the upper two floors. The only evidence of any relief from this complete austerity are a chamfered dado running round the supposed Male Dining Hall on the ground floor of Block O2 (which is otherwise also unrelieved) and the stepped moulded window surrounds and flat timber cills as also noted on the ground floor of Blocks O5 and H. It is uncertain whether these features are primary but it is probable that, with the deeper windows, they preserve evidence of the former use of the ground-floor rooms of the main range as male and female Day Rooms.
    15.          Blocks O1 and O5 – Main Range – East and West Terminal Cross-Ranges (for exterior, see above) (See Figs 17-19 & Plates 19-20)
    16. At the end of the wings are terminal blocks (O1 and O5). As with the main ranges (O2 and O4, above), these are of red-brown brick, with three storeys. As stated above, it would appear that the two stairwells in the main range closest to the cross-ranges were used to maintain segregated access to the cross-ranges only. As with the main range, the cross-ranges originally had deep, small-pane, centre-pivot widows with toplights on the ground floor and small-pane, centre-pivot windows on the upper two storeys. Whilst almost all of the upper windows have survived unaltered, only one unaltered example of the original ground-floor windows have survived in each cross-range. In both cases, it is worth noting that these have flat timber cills, as in Block O4 and H, but not in Block O2. Unlike the ‘wards’ within the main range, the terminal cross-ranges still retain evidence of original room dividers and integral chimney-breasts at their northern ends (Plate 19h), probably indicative of their use for the ‘first-class’ or ‘deserving’ poor (the aged and infirm). There is also an early, but secondary, chimney-breast attached to the east elevation of the eastern terminal cross-range (Block O5).
    17. These terminal cross-ranges were built with 3-storey, projecting bays, both of which have been extended with consequent loss of original fenestration. The projecting bay of the western range (O1) is abutted by a short RECI 1930s-1940s three-storey extension (Block J – Plate 21a-d), exactly matching the original work, excepting the later work has soldier lintels. The eastern range (Block O5) was similarly extended by the RECI or NHS, with a flat roofed, single-storey range of Toilets (Block V – Plate 20v). The original external elevations of the eastern cross-range are further obscured by single-storey 1930s RECI ranges P and Q (Plate 22) and the early (but secondary) two-storey workhouse East Range (Block N – Plate 27-28). These ranges will be discussed below.
    18. The interior spaces of the terminal cross-ranges retain some features of interest. Summaries are as follows:
    19. Block O1 (Interior): Ground Floor: A large, undivided space, with a chimney-breast to the north (Plate 19h). There is a narrow, partitioned-off space in the west projecting bay where a WC is shown on the 1901 drainage plan (Fig 6). Possibly originally for ‘first class’ male paupers, this room may have been divided into two with a partition but it was being uses as one large ‘Dormitory’ in 1937 (Fig 10). It retains one original deep window with toplight and flat cill as well as doorways with original frames to the small room in the projecting bay and to the stairwell. The dado, doors and other partitions appear to be modern. Block O1, First Floor: Probably originally a large, undivided space with chimney-breast to north. Original windows and doorcase to stairwell. Partitions appear modern. Modern doors. Block O1, Second Floor: as above.
    20. Block O5 (Interior): Ground Floor: Apparently originally two large rooms, divided by the present north wall, with a narrow, partitioned-off room in the east projecting bay. The original north wall of the northern room (originally with chimney-breast to north, as still seen on the second floor) was removed shortly after completion, when range N was built. Possibly for ‘first class’ female paupers originally, this room served as a Billiard Room in 1937 (Fig 10). It retains one original deep window with toplight, flat cill and stepped window surrounds matching those on the ground floor of Block O4 (above) and Block N (below). All doorways, most of which are inserted, have 1930s frames with modern doors. First Floor: Apparently originally two large rooms, divided by the surviving, unusual ‘panelled’ wall (Plate 20e, left). The original north wall of the northern room (originally with chimney-breast to north) was removed shortly after completion, when Block N was built. There is still evidence of a narrow, partitioned-off room in the eastern projecting bay. What remains of this ‘room’ retains an original cupboard (Plate 20e). Original windows and doorcases to stairwell and through panelled wall. Otherwise modern partitions and doors. Second Floor: Probably originally a large, undivided space (Plate 20d), retaining original chimney-breast to north. Original windows and doorcase to stairwell. Modern partitions and doors.Extensions to Western Terminal Cross-Range (Blocks J and R) (See Figs 17-19 & Plate 21)
    21. Block J. A 3-storey toilet extension, built at the west end of Block O. Apart from the use of a slightly redder brick and soldier lintels (Plate 21d), it is designed to carefully match the rest of Block O, right down to having matching small-pane, centre-pivotting windows with sloping plastered cills internally. As is the case with a number of other smaller buildings and extensions, this block is not shown on the 1937 or 1938 Block Plans (Figs 10 and 11) and it first appears on the OS map of 1953 (Fig 12). This may be a cartographic error however. Whilst this extension lacks the carefully rubbed brick lintels of known pre-war RECI extensions (e.g Block Q), the work seems to be too carefully executed to be the work of the early post-war NHS. All partitions and the toilets on the ground and first floors appear to be modern. The windows may have been repositioned from Block O1 and possibly also from other buildings that were being remodelled in the 1930s (e.g. Block E). No other features of interest were noted. This extension is not specifically mentioned in the List description.
    22. Block R.   Secondary, workhouse-period, pitched-roofed, red-brown brick, single storey shed (Plate 21o-f). The building has been altered through the insertion of modern widows to the east and west, in altered / new openings with soldier lintels. It also appears to have had a chimney in its gable. First shown on the OS map of 1877 (Fig 5), this building originally had a matching counterpart on the site now occupied by Block Q. The original use of these two ‘sheds’ is not currently clear, although they may have been ‘Sanitary Annexes’ housing washing facilities. In modern times this building was in use as a Scullery. Modern, tiled interior, with no internal features of interest. Not specifically mentioned in List description.        Extensions to Eastern Terminal Cross-Range (P, Q and V)           (See Figs 17-18 & Plate 22)
    23. Block P. Single-pitched-roofed, single-story, red brick RECI lean-to, with rubbed brick lintel on south elevation (Plate 22a). First shown on a Block Plan of 1937 (Fig 10), it is thought that this building was constructed by the RECI in the 1920s or 30s. In 1937 it was being used as Scullery to a Men’s Mess Room and Lounge (Block Q below). Original 2-pane, double-hung sashes and casements, modern infill and door to northern half of west elevation. The wall to its northern half is later. No other features of interest. Not mentioned in List description.
    24. Block Q. Flat-roofed, two-story and single-storey, red brick RECI extension, with rubbed brick lintels (Plate 22b-h). Built in two closely contemporary phases (Plate 22d), 1922-1937, both first shown on a Block Plan of 1937 (Fig 10). Used in 1937 (and probably when built) as Men’s Mess Room and Lounge, with additional dormitory accommodation on upper floor. Original small-pane, double-hung sashes, skirtings, window surrounds, architraves, two chimney-breasts and moulded beams (Plates 22f-h). No other features of interest. Not mentioned in List description.
    25. Block V. Flat roofed, single-storey, red brick, mid-20th-century Toilet block (Plate 20b). Similar in detailing to RECI Block Q (1922-1937), albeit with soldier lintels rather that the well-executed rubbed-brick lintels of Blocks P and Q. As with a number of other buildings with similar lintels (e.g. Blocks T1 and J) this building is not shown on any map prior to 1953. This may be a cartographic error, or it may imply that this is an early-post-war RECI extension. Original windows, door frames and possibly cubicle partitions. No other features of interest. Not mentioned in List description.         Western Ranges (Blocks H and I)                                                                          (See Figs 17-18 & Plates 23-24)
    26. Block I. An attractive, pitched-roofed, two-storey, red brick building with small-pane ‘Crittal’ windows throughout (Plate 23b) and exposed steel roof trusses on upper storey (Plate 23e). This building is of a very high quality of build, with a circular occulus in its northern gable and very well executed rubbed-brick, straight-headed lintels. This building was constructed on the site of the secondary (but pre-1874) single-story west range of the workhouse (see Plate 2). It appears to have been constructed to compliment the pre-1874, two-storey workhouse range opposite (Block H). Until the late-1970s / early-1980s, the resemblance in plan would have been more marked, as it had an external staircase on its north wall, with a toilet beneath. This toilet block survives, incorporated into Block H (below) (Plate 24c & e).
    27. This building is something of an enigma as it does not appear on any plan prior to 1953 (Fig 12). This must be a cartographic error, as the detailing of the building implies one constructed between the end of the First War and c.1930. The detailing of this building is not matched by any other building on the site and there is a slight possibility that it was constructed, along with the former swimming pool to its west, by the Metropolitan Asylums Board (1900-1923). If so, it is the only major surviving large MAB building on the site. It seems more likely that it is in fact an early RECI building, probably constructed not long after 1923. If this is the case, in 1937 it was ‘5th Class Room’ (Fig 10). The upper floor presumably housed a further dormitory. Apart from modern suspended ceilings and doors, this building is unaltered from its original state, retaining all original dados, door frames, skirtings etc. The toilet that lay beneath its former external staircase is also preserved within the south-western corner of Block H (Plate 24c & e). Not mentioned in List description.
    28. Block H. Flat roofed, single-storey, red brick, mid-20th-century block, with soldier lintels and single-pane Crittal windows (Plate 24). This block is not shown any map before that of 1982-4 OS Map (Fig 15). Its only features of interest is the toilet in its south western corner, which used to lie beneath the original external staircase that ran down the northern elevation of Block (Plate 24c & e). This section still retains its original rubbed-brick lintel, small-pane Crittal window and a decorative cast-iron gothic rainwater hopper on the exterior. The building’s interior is modern and retains nothing of significance or interest. Not mentioned in List description.        Kitchen Ranges (Block K1 to K4)                                                     (See Fig 17 & Plates 25-26)
    29.          General Description
    30. In the standard Scott / Moffat plan, the workhouse kitchen was a wing attached to the rear of the Master & Matron’s Lodgings, with an attached Bakehouse and Back Kitchen. No such wing is shown on the 1839 Tithe map (Fig 2), but a range corresponding to the present Block K1 is shown on the Witham Town Plan surveyed shortly after (Fig 3). Given that the workhouse was still under construction when the Tithe map was being surveyed, there is no reason not to think that Block K1 (Plate 25) is part of the original build, although the attached Bakehouse / Back Kitchen appears to have been demolished when the current Pantry was built in 1934. Between 1874 and 1892 the small Bakehouse / Back Kitchen was extended slightly northward, a small Shelter was added to the west of the Kitchen and a Store (the present Block K2 – Plate 26a-c) was added to the Kitchen’s east. It seems probable that these were constructed during the lifetime of the Witham Union (pre-c.1880), although they could have been constructed by the Metropolitan Asylums Board (1881-1900). In 1934 the old Bakehouse / Back Kitchen, probably the serving as a Scullery, was demolished by the RECI and a large new Scullery (the present Block K3 – Plate 26d-f) built in its place. This was followed shortly after by a small new western store and yard (both also K3 – Plate 26g). This store / yard were subsumed into a new Scullery (Block K4 – Plate 26h) during the NHS period. Despite the historic significance of the original workhouse Kitchen, no parts of this range are mentioned in the List description.
    31.          Block K1 – The Workhouse Kitchen (Block K1)                                (See Fig 17 & Plate 25)
    32. As described above, the original workhouse kitchen remains almost completely intact, albeit surrounded by later buildings and only its hipped, slate roof with a large timber and glass lantern is visible from the exterior. There is a modern suspended ceiling and the walls are fully lined internally. Whilst it was not possible to inspect beneath the wall-cladding, it is possible to see the original fine timber, queen-post roof and lantern through missing ceiling panels (Plate 25b-c). Apart from original door frames in the east and west walls, no other significant features are currently visible internally, but the original, fixed wooden windows in what was its east elevation are still visible from within Block K2 (Plates 25 e-f).

         Block K2 – 1874-1897 Workhouse or MAB Kitchen Store                       (See Fig 17 & Plate 26a-c)

    1. To the east of the original kitchen lies an extension (variously referred to in later plans latterly as ‘Store’ and ‘Bread Store’). Most of this building is accessed from the original kitchen, although its southern end is accessed solely from the Master & Matron’s Pantry / Larder in the central octagon (Master & Matron’s Lodgings) of the main workhouse range (Plate 26c). This building is dated from map evidence to sometime between 1874 and 1892. Judging by its appearance, the building would appear to have bee constructed during the lifetime of the Witham Union and its building date would be closer to the earlier date therefore (i.e. 1874-c.1880). It is built of red-brown brick, with its original, slated, timber-trussed roof with lantern (Plate 26a) and the whole closely resembles the original 1839 Kitchen range (Block K1). Internal, modern wall-cladding currently make assessment difficult, but it is noted that the western door and door frame are original (Plate 26b), as is the casement window to the south. Internally one may still see the original, fixed wooden windows of the original workhouse Kitchen (Block K1) (Plate 25e-f).
    2.          Block K3 – 1934 RECI Scullery (See Fig 17 & Plate 26d-g)
    3. Block K3 was constructed by the RECI in 1934, on the site of an earlier workhouse-period Scullery. It is a single-story, red brick, structure, with an exposed, steel-trussed roof, concrete lintels and original timber windows. As with many of the RECI buildings, it was designed by Wykeham Chancellor, architects, and a full set of drawings survives in the Essex Record Office (ERO, D/F 8/196). Apart from internal modernisation and suspended ceiling, the building is remarkably unaltered, although one window to the east was blocked (Plate 26d) and two windows to the west removed when the NHS Scullery (Block K4) was added in the later 20th Century. The remains of a nearly-contemporary Kitchen Store with small-pane Crittal window (Plate 26g) and a small, walled yard survive to the west of the workhouse Kitchen (Block K1). These are surrounded by the NHS Scullery Block (Block K4).
    4.          Block K4 – Later-20th-century NHS Scullery (See Fig 17 & Plate 26h)
    5. Block K4 was constructed by the NHS in the late 1970s or early 1980s to serve their greatly expanded hospital site. It is flat-roofed, red-brick, single-storey building of very little interest. Not mentioned in List description.

         Eastern Ranges (Blocks L, M and N)                                               (See Figs 17-18 & Plates 27-30)

         Block N – Secondary Workhouse East Range (See Figs 17-18 & Plates 27-28)

    1. Block N is a two-storey, northern extension to the main workhouse terminal cross-range (Block O5). It is built of matching red-brown brick and in all materials and most details it is identical to main workhouse ranges (Block O above), albeit of only two storeys rather than three. The building does not conform to the standard Scott / Moffat plan and it is not shown on the Witham Tithe map (Fig 2), nor the undated Witham Town Plan (Fig 3). It is shown on the 1874 OS map however (Fig 4), and it would appear from the nearly-identical nature of the materials and detailing to have been constructed not long after the Scott / Moffat workhouse had been completed. The building is effectively a northern extension of the former ground- and first-floor north rooms of the original eastern terminal cross-range of the original workhouse (Block O5), whose original north walls were removed during its construction. The two rooms within Block N continue into the original terminal cross-range therefore, the position of the original north wall being marked by piers and beams on both storeys. Thus, whilst the building is two window bays long externally, it is three and a half bays long internally.
    2. The ground floor of the west elevation (Plate 27a) has three windows and a door, the openings of which all appear to be original. One of the ground floor windows appears to be late-19th-century, whilst the door is modern. The most significant difference to the original main- and terminal cross-ranges (Blocks O1/O2/O4/O5) is that the windows are all small-pane, double-hung sashes, under segmental heads (Plate 27e-f), all bar one of which (with larger panes) appear to be original. As with the main range, the ground floor windows are deeper, with toplights (Plate 27e).
    3. Internally the ground floor and first floor retain features consistent with those in the main- and terminal cross-ranges of Block O, although the ground floor remains undivided (Plate 28a). Thus the ground floor windows all retain flat timber cills and moulded, stepped surrounds (Plate 28d), whereas the windows on the upper storey all have plastered, sloping cills. The ground floor also retains a large, primary cupboard, divided internally (Plate 28b). There is an original chimney breast at the north end (Plate 28c), whist the west and north doors are in original openings, with original frames. The south door and opening appear to be modern. There is little of interest on the first floor. The partitions and fitments are modern. The windows have sloping cills. There is a chimney breast to the north wall. The north and south doors are in original frames and openings. These rooms have probably always been plastered and historic paintwork may survive beneath the modern layers. The original uses of these two rooms is unclear, although their position leading off of the terminal cross range of the main workhouse block (Block O5) implies that it was an extension to the accommodation there. It is thus likely to have housed more ‘deserving’ females, indicative of the workhouses increasing use by the aged and infirm. The ground floor, with its deep windows is likely to have been another female day room and the upper floor appears to have been another female dormitory. Despite the early date of this range, it is not specifically mentioned in the List description.

         Block L – Secondary Workhouse Female Bath House, Toilets etc (See Figs 17-18 & Plates 29-30c)

    1. Block N is a single-storey, northern extension to Block N. It is built of matching red-brown brick and, excepting some parts of its northern bay, in all materials and most details it is identical to it and to the main workhouse ranges (Block O above), albeit of only one storey. Again, this building does not conform to the standard Scott / Moffat plan and it is not shown on the Witham Tithe map (Fig 2), nor the undated Witham Town Plan (Fig 3). Most of it appears to be shown on the 1874 OS map however (Fig 4), and it would appear that most of it was constructed not long after the Scott / Moffat workhouse had been completed. It appears to have originally contained the women’s / girls’ washing facilities and toilets. There were 4 WCs here in 1901 (Fig 6). Despite the early date of most of this range, it is not specifically mentioned in the List description.
    2. This building is of three unequal bays, of differing heights. The southernmost bay, which projects slightly into the courtyard consists of a glazed staircase accessing the upper storey of Block N (Plate 28f & 29a-b). The stone-tread staircase (with wrought iron balusters and banister), slate roof and glazing appear to be original, but the projecting door and the brickwork surround, above and to the south appear to date to the 1930s or later.
    3. The middle bay has a window and door facing into the courtyard and a low, sloping slate roof. All of this work (except the door itself) appears to be original, as do the door openings, door frames and a surviving cupboard door leading to a space under the stair (29d-e). The corner cubicle (not accessed internally) appears to be modern, as do the two northern doorways leading into the northern block (below).
    4. The northern bay has suffered more alteration, apparently dating to the tenure of the MAB (1900-1923). Its eastern half (with water tank on its roof) is of workhouse-period red-brown brick (Plate 30b) and it is here that the 1901 plans show a header tank (Fig 7) and 4 WCs (Fig 6). This eastern portion was extended out into the courtyard in redder brick sometime prior to the 1922 OS map (Fig 9), although the parapet and flat roof on this section are later still, apparently post-war NHS work. Once extended, this building would appear to have been accessed via a blocked door in its projecting south elevation (Plate 29f). Thus, only the eastern end of this building retains any fabric from the workhouse period, the remainder apparently dating to between 1901 and 1922. The west and north walls nevertheless retain relocated, workhouse-period small-pane, centre-pivoting windows, with iron bars internally, whilst there is also a further, inserted window in the older portion of the north elevation (Plate 29b). This more historic part of the north elevation retains two original, projecting piers (Plate 30a-b), corresponding to a pair on the south wall of Block E. Internally this building retains glazed tiling to about 2 metres, with glazed ceramic edging (Plate 30c). The toilets and partitions are modern.
    5.          Block M – Early-20th-century SMDSB Girls’ Bath House extension (See Figs 1718 & Plate 30d-g)
    6. Adjoining the eastern side of Block M is a large, square, single-storey, red brick extension, with a hipped slate roof and large high-level windows. This building first appears on the 1897 OS map (Fig 5) and it was built by the SMDSB as an extension to Block M as a girls bath house. It is a building of little architectural merit although it is indicative of increasing contemporary concern over hygiene. Whilst this building is little altered externally, it retains no features of interest internally. This building is not specifically mentioned in the List description.


  • DESCRIPTION (III) – The Northern Ranges     (Blocks A, B, C, D, E, F and G)

(See Figs 20-24 & Plates 31-43)


Note:     The workhouse is aligned roughly northeast – southwest. For ease of description, a site north is used throughout this document, where the site entrance is south and the old Infirmary (Block F) is north.


Introduction – Northern Ranges

    1. The northern ranges originated in Scott / Moffatt’s U-shaped single- and two-storey Infirmary (Block F) and two narrow east-west single-storey flanking ranges housing men’s workrooms (west) and women’s workrooms / laundry (east). Whilst the offices / chapel of Scott / Moffatt’s entrance range and the large open wards of the original main block have adapted very well to the changing priorities and needs of the workhouse / children’s homes / hospital, the northern, ‘ancillary’ part of the site has proved less adaptable to these changes of use. For a variety of reasons, they have nevertheless survived in a more complete condition than at the vast majority of sites. The buildings have thus undergone a series of structural alterations however, and very detailed documentary research and fabric analysis would be required in order to understand quite how some of the earlier buildings appeared when built, or at any other given point in time.
    2. The first major change appears to have an early expansion of the Infirmary, increasing it to two storeys throughout. This appears to be coupled with the addition of stair towers and sundry early additions to the women’s workrooms / laundry where this abutted the Infirmary. These changes were followed by the erection of a new Drying Room (Block E3) and two School Rooms (Blocks A1 and D1) by the South Metropolitan District School Board in 1892-3. The Royal Eastern Counties Institution then erected two Boiler Houses (Block B and C1), shortly followed by a substantial rebuild and enlargement of the original women’s workrooms / Laundry in 1933 and the building of a Mattress Shop abutting the (former) girls’ School Room (Block D2). Later work by the NHS consisted of the demolition of the original Scott / Moffatt western, single-storey former men’s work room range and the construction of a large new Boiler House (Block G), both in the late 1970s/early 1980s.
    3. Whilst the RECI Laundry of 1933 remains substantially as reconstructed, the original Scott / Moffat Infirmary has had a number of interventions over time. The most recent (and invasive) of these has been a recent, but aborted, refurbishment which, whilst clearly carried out using a ‘conservation’ approach, has been particularly heavy-handed in its execution. Whilst none of these buildings are specifically mentioned in the List description, both the former Boys’ School Room (Block A1) and the Infirmary (Block F) are identified in Essex County Council’s thematic workhouse study (Garratt 1998) as being important curtilage buildings.

Workhouse Infirmary (Block F)                                                             (See Figs 20-21 & Plates 31-35)

General Description

    1. The original Scott / Moffatt Infirmary consists of a two-storey central range with projecting southern bay (Block F1) and two, two-storey flanking ranges (Blocks F2 (west) and F3 (east)), each with a small attached toilet / stair tower. The spaces between the projecting southern bay and the flanking ranges are infilled with small glazed timber, single-storey lean-tos (Plate 31a) and there is a similar small lean-to to the north. With a minor exceptions, all of the windows are small-pane, double-hung sashes, in contrast to those of the main workhouse range (Block O), in which small-pane, centre-pivoting windows predominate. The upper storey retains a large number of its original, small-pane, double-hung sash windows (c.23 of 32). The lower storey, in contrast, has been almost entirely re-fenestrated (Plate 31d-e) and only eight original lower window openings have survived, of which only seven retain their original windows. Apart from the glazed lean-tos, this block and its wings and stair / toilet towers are constructed of red-brown brick throughout, generally with hipped, slated roofs. Whilst the former Infirmary block still retains sufficient original fabric so as to be able to appreciate roughly how it appeared when built, as stated above, only very detailed documentary research and fabric analysis could elucidate fully how it appeared when built, or at any other given point in time.
    2. Block F1 – Central Infirmary Block                                                             (See Figs 20-21 & Plates 31-32)  
    3. The north and south elevations of the central Infirmary block are of 6 window bays each, the projecting bay dividing the south elevation dividing 2 : 2 : 2. All of the windows are small-pane, double-hung sashes. All of the original small-pane upper windows have survived. Those on the ground floor have been subject to considerable alteration and only four original windows and four original door openings survive within the south elevation or within the sides of the projecting bay. Within the north elevation only one original window has survived, the remainder of the ground floor windows having been replaced with much larger ranges of single- and 2-pane double-hung sashes, probably in the late 19th– or early 20th Centuries. There is no evidence that the east and west elevations were fenestrated prior to the heightening of the flanking blocks F2 and F3 and the doorways connecting with the flanking Blocks F2 and F3 are, or appear to be, inserted, on both storeys.
    4. On either side of the projecting bay on the south elevation there are the single-storey, glazed lean-tos. The western of these is an un-finished L-shaped modern replica structure (Plate 31a), whilst the eastern lean-to is historic (Plate 32a). It is uncertain whether these lean-tos are an original feature, although the Tithe map and 1874 OS editions (Figs 2 to 4) imply that they were, at least in part. The first map to confirm this in detail and the first to show the western lean-to as an L-shaped structure is that of 1897 (Fig 5) however. There is a matching lean-to to the north (Plate 31d). This is also an un-finished modern structure, designed to match those on the south elevation. It is not shown on any maps or plans and it would seem to be a modern invention.
    5. The interior of this block has suffered considerably from its aborted recent refurbishment, particularly the mechanical removal of wall finishes, the infilling of doorways and the removal of joinery. The ground floor is divided by two primary brick cross-walls, both with evidence of a tall original doorway, high enough for a door plus toplight (as Plate 34b), as found in the main workhouse range (Block O). A plan of 1933 in the Essex Record Office (ERO D/F 8/341) shows that the present central room was divided by a further partition at this time, although a pipe trench and other interventions have removed almost any evidence of this, excepting repairs to the floor joists above. These much repaired joists also preserve evidence of a trimmer that betrays the position of an original staircase to the upper storey. A further wall, also now lost, partially separated the projecting bay. There are primary chimney-breasts (with blocked fireplaces) to the eastern and western rooms and within the projecting bay. The central room(s) and the projecting bay are thus likely to have contained a staircase and small rooms for a nurse and for the surgeon who would have visited once-weekly, whilst the rooms to either side would have contained small five-bed wards. It is uncertain whether there was a padded cell (or Refractory Ward) as the refenestaration has removed the only likely evidence. The 1933 plan contains the only documentary evidence of room-uses found to date. It shows the four rooms on the ground floor (from west to east) Tailor’s Shop, Jam Making Room, Mattress Store and Needle Room.
    6. The upper floor is undivided and it appears to have been built as such (Plate 32e). It is possible that it was originally partitioned however, and the 1933 plan shows three small partitioned rooms in the north-western corner. The upper floor retains little evidence of former use, although the brickwork still retains historic paintwork, implying that the walls were never plastered. There is also some surviving deep, chamfered skirting along the north wall and many of the floorboards are original, albeit repositioned / reused in many instances. It is likely that the projecting bay was originally partitioned off from the remainder, although modern interventions have obscured this point.   The chimney-breasts in the east and west end walls are original although there is evidence of fireplaces on the lower storey only. There was also formerly a chimney-breast within the projecting bay, although this was removed on the first floor in the late-19th / early 20th Century (Plate 32f). No doors or door-frames survive on the upper floor. The roof structure is the repaired original, hipped at both ends and over the projecting bay, with queen-post trusses matching those within the main workhouse range (Block O). The painted brick walls and the lack of fireplaces on the upper floor is of interest, indicating that the workhouse Infirmary was not a particularly comfortable place, even in the 1930s, when it was serving as a boys’ dormitory. Block F2 – Western Infirmary Block                                                         (See Figs 20-21 & Plates 33-34)
    7. The western Infirmary block (Block F2) is very similar to the central block (F1) and its lower storey is contemporary with it. This is abutted by a stair tower to the west, which is in turn abutted by a toilet tower (Plate 32e). The hipped roof structure and primary windows are identical with those of the central block and it is constructed throughout in the same red-brown brick. Unlike the central block, the outer walls corbel inwards on the exterior between the ground and first floors however, and there is a clear structural joint where the upper storey abuts the central block (Block F1). These features show that the upper storey is a secondary feature, albeit one certainly constructed during the workhouse period, probably relatively shortly after the completion of the initial 1837-9 phase. It is presumed that the original roof may have been dismantled and raised when the upper floor was added. Importantly, discolouration on the western elevation clearly indicates the height and pitch of the roof of the demolished single-storey men’s workroom block that formerly lay to the west (Plates 33b-d).
    8. As with the central block (F1), most of the surviving windows on the upper storey are original small-pane, double-hung sashes, although significant interventions are visible. Thus, while the west elevation retains three original windows (Plate 33a) and the north elevation retains two full-width and one narrow window (all apparently original) (Plate 31d left), the south elevation now has two, deep, early-20th-century casement windows under original lintels (Plate 33b). A survey of 1933 (ERO D/F 8/341) also shows a third, smaller window between these. Only one (of four) original window survives in the upper storey of the western elevation. The other three windows were clearly blocked at an early date however. Two of the blockings are associated with the heightening of the western stair tower (see below), which, rather surprisingly, was carried out after the completion of the upper storey. The third blocked window is cut across by the discolouration that indicates the former roof-line of the lost single-storey men’s work room range (Plate 33d), apparently indicating that the second storey was added prior to the completion of the workroom range, which is shown on the Tithe map of 1839. These changes may indicate that design changes that were being made during the initial construction of the Infirmary in 1837-9.
    9. The ground floor has also suffered much alteration and refenestration. The lower storey of the southern half of the building has modern white painted pebbledash render on its west, south and east elevations. This part of the building also has a large inserted garage door on the west elevation and ugly large-pane Crittal windows to the ground floor of the south and east elevations. These changes may date to the time of the demolition of the former men’s work room range in the late 1970s / early 1980s. Any primary ground floor windows that may have existed in the northern half of the building have been replaced with much larger ranges of single- and 2-pane, double-hung sashes, probably in the late 19th– or early 20th Centuries (Plate 33c).
    10. Internally there is little of interest remaining, apart from the wooden floor, roof and two brick cross-walls forming a cross-passage that divides the ground floor into two rooms. The northern of these two rooms (that with the ranges of late 19th– or early 20th-century single- and 2-pane, double-hung sashes) served as a Shoemaker’s Shop in 1933 (ERO D/F 8/341) (Plate 34a) and it retains a blocked primary fireplace (Plate 34e). This room may have been a further five-bed ward, whilst the southern room is likely to have been part of the men’s workroom range. The upper storey appears to have always been undivided (Plate 34d), but in contrast to the central block (F1), two of the three chimney-breasts on the upper floor have evidence of fireplaces (Plate 34e). There is also no evidence of paint on the walls of the upper storey, implying that the walls here were plastered from the outset. The two cross-walls on the ground floor are both primary or early and one has evidence of blocked primary doorway, once again tall enough for a toplight (Plate 34b). The opposite cross wall has a central chimney-breast with a blocked fireplace which, strangely, appears to have serviced only the cross-passage. The opposite cross-wall may be a slightly later insertion therefore. This chimney dog-legs very awkwardly to gain the east wall on the upper storey, again implying that the upper storey is secondary. The southern ground-floor room could not be accessed, but could be viewed through the windows. It did not appear to contain anything of interest, except two chimney-breasts.
    11. The small stair tower on the western side of this block is largely a single-phase structure. It is visible on the Tithe map of 1839 and it is again built of red-brown brick. It retains a 19th-century 4-panel external door and small-pane, double-hung sash window, both of which appear to be primary. It is structurally separate from both the ground and first floors of Block F2, and clearly post-dates both. Internally it retains its original stone staircase, with wrought-iron balusters and banister and painted brick walls (Plate 34c). Attached to the western side of the stair tower is a two-storey toilet tower (Plate 33e). This is of two phases (ground and first floors) and it post-dates the stair tower. It first appears on the block plan of 1901 (Fig 6) and it has later-19th-century 2-pane, double-hung sashes, although it is noted that the ground-floor window appears to be inserted into an earlier (and formerly wider) opening. It retains no internal features of interest.
    12. Block F3 – Eastern Infirmary Block                                                           (See Figs 20-21 & Plate 35)
    13. Like the western block (above), the eastern Infirmary block (Block F3) is very similar to the central block (F1) and, once again, its lower storey is contemporary with it. There is a variation in plan however, as the southern end of the block appears to have been truncated at a later date, certainly by the time of the 1933 survey. It is noted that this end of the building has a gable with an external skin of later brick, rather than being hipped as elsewhere and it seems clear that the building has been cut short at an original cross-wall. This observation is confirmed by the 1933 survey that shows an eastern toilet tower and a western stair tower extending well beyond this gable. Part of the former western stair tower survives, cut back to the gable in 1933 and converted to a toilet tower (Plate 35c). Apart from the gable, the roof structure is identical to the other two blocks (F1 and F2). This block’s primary windows on both floors are also identical with those of the central and western blocks and, apart from the outer skin of the southern gable, it is constructed throughout in the same red-brown brick. Unlike the western block (F2), the outer walls do not corbel inwards on the exterior between the ground and first floors, but there is a clear structural joint where the upper storey abuts the central block (Block F1) (Plate 35a). As with the western block, this again indicates that the upper storey is a secondary feature, albeit one certainly built during the workhouse period, probably relatively shortly after the completion of the initial 1837-9 phase. Again, the original roof may have simply dismantled been and raised when the upper floor was added.
    14. As with the central block (F1), most of the surviving windows on the upper storey are original small-pane, double-hung sashes (4 of) and three more survive on the lower storey. A further two primary window openings on the lower storey are blocked with modern work, whilst another former window opening on the upper storey was converted into a fire exit in 1933. On the upper storey there is an area of newer brickwork at the south end of the eastern wall where there was once a door to the now-lost eastern tower (Toilets in 1933), corresponding to the in the western stair tower of the western block (Block F2). There is a corresponding area of blocking on the ground floor (Plate 35g). The first floor window in the southern gable is an early-20th-century casement window matching the pair in the southern wall of the western block (Block F2) (Plate 35d). This is inserted into a former door opening, showing that the building once continued further south on both its first and second floors. There is a corresponding doorway on the ground floor (with a concrete lintel) that was blocked in 1933 (Plate 33h).
    15. Internally there is little of interest remaining, apart from the wooden floor, roof and a primary brick cross-wall on the ground floor, dividing it into two rooms. The northern of these two rooms served as a Work Room in 1933 (Plate 35f), whilst the southern room was a Sorting Room for the adjacent Laundry (ERO D/F 8/341). Each has a chimney-breast with blocked fireplace and both are likely to have been small five-bed wards originally. The upper storey appears to have originally been divided by what is now the southern gable-end wall and it is now a single space. It retains two chimney-breasts, both with blocked fireplaces. Unlike the western block, but like the central block, the walls are painted brick (Plate 35e). The cross-wall on the ground floor appears to be primary and it retains a primary doorway, once again apparently tall enough for a toplight. Unlike the ground floor rooms in the central and western blocks, both ground-floor rooms retain what appear to be primary floorboards. The remainder of the building has concrete floors laid with parquet flooring, excepting the glazed lean-tos, which have stone flags.
    16. The small toilet tower on the western side of this block (Plate 35c) is a two-phase structure. It started life as a stair tower and it is first shown on the OS map of 1874. It seems that it was built to replace the earlier stair tower on the eastern side, when this was converted to a toilet tower. Until 1933, this tower extended much further south, but it was cut back flush with the south gable and converted to a toilet tower when the Laundry (Block E) was being rebuilt in 1933. The southern wall dates to this time, as does most of the western wall. The present windows, floor and roof date to this rebuilding, although the small-pane, double-hung sashes are reused from elsewhere. It retains no internal features of interest.Blocks A and D – Former Boys’ and Girls’ School Rooms           (See Fig 20 & Plates 36-38)
    17.           Introduction
    18. At the north of the site are two large red-brick buildings with rubbed-brick lintels. These were School Rooms built by the South Metropolitan District School Board in 1892-3. The western of these (Block A1) was formerly the Boys’ School Room, whilst the eastern (Block D) was the Girls’ School Room. The former Boys’ School Room (Plate 36-7) is much the better preserved and, whilst it is not specifically mentioned in the List description, it is specifically mentioned as an important curtilage building in the Essex County Council study (Garratt 1998). In contrast to the former Boys’ School Room, the former Girls’ School Room (Plate 38a-d)is much rebuilt, having lost its original roof, windows and entrance porch. Whilst these buildings were constructed after the dissolution of the Witham Union, they are nevertheless representative of the use of the former workhouse as a Poor Law school, and thus very much a part of the Poor Law story. Both buildings were latterly reused for other purposes, Block A1 being an Amusement Room and Block D1 being ‘M.I. Room’ in 1937 (Fig 10). A further block (Block D2 – Plate 38e-g) was added to the north of D1 I the 1930s, serving then as a Mattress Shop. Block A1 latterly became a physiotherapy gymnasium and had a toilet block added to its eastern end in the late 1970s / early 1980s
    19. Block A1 – Former Boys’ School Room                                                     (See Fig 20 & Plates 36-37)
    20. As stated above, this building is much the better preserved of the two former school rooms. Features of particular note are the fine timber and iron roof (Plate 37d-e), the eight surviving double-hung sash windows (Plate 36d), the corbelled external chimney-breasts (Plate 36a), chimneys and original glazed porch and entrance doors in the south elevation (Plates 36a-c). This building has suffered some alterations however, many of them relatively recent. These alterations largely relate to the stopping-up of all of the windows on its east and west gable ends, one of which, on the west elevation, appears to have been deepened into a doorway some time prior to its blocking (Plate 36f). The northern entrance (Plate 37c&g) also appears to be a modern insertion, although if this is the case, some care has been taken to mimic the blue brick jambs and rubbed brick lintels found elsewhere on this building. The doorway to Block A2 is also a modern insertion. Internally the building retains little of interest, the gymnasium wall-bars and inserted office being modern.
    21. Block A2 – Modern Toilets
    22. Block A2 is a flat-roofed, single storey toilet block, constructed under the NHS sometime in the late 1970s or early 1980s. It has re brick walls and large-pane Crital windows under soldier lintels. It is of little or no interestat
    23. Block D1 – Former Girls’ School Room                                                     (See Fig 20 & Plate 38a-d)
    24. As stated above, the former Girls’ School Room is considerably more altered than the former Boys’ School Room. At some time in the mid 20th Century it was shorn of its original roof and given a flat roof with parapet. Probably at the same time its windows were replaced with large 4-pane hinged windows (Plate 38c) and it was shorn of its chimneys. These works may have coincided with the addition of Block D2 (Plate 38e-g) to its north, work that involved the blocking of a window and the cutting through of a connecting door. This event is dated to pre-1937, as a block plan of this date (Fig 10) shows this later building, labelled ‘Mattress Shop’. The former school room is shown as ‘M.I. Room’. Externally, the only features of interest are the window openings (but not windows or cills), the former entrance (but not the infilling joinery) and the projecting corbelled chimney-breasts. It was not possible to access the interior of this building, but its interior was visible through a window (Plate 38g). The internal partitions appear to be modern and no other features of note were visible.
    25. Block D2 – ‘Mattress Shop’                                                                             (See Fig 20 & Plate 38e-g)
    26. Block D2 is a low, red-brick, pitched-roofed, single-story building. It is well illuminated, with ranges of windows to its north, east and west. It was not accessed internally. It is a relatively industrial-looking building and it was built by the Royal Eastern Counties Institution as a ‘Mattress Shop’. Whether this was simply for the repair of the mattresses used in the Bridge Home, or a workshop for mattress-making is currently unclear. It survives in a generally ‘as –built’ state, but it would appear to be of lesser significance. Inspection through the windows (Plate 38g) and modern survey drawings appear to show that it will retain little of interest internally.Block B – ‘Auxiliary Boiler House’                                                   (See Fig 20 & Plate 39a-d)
    27. Block B is a small, prosaic, red-brown brick building, with a hipped slate roof and a large external chimney. It retains its original small-pane Crittal windows and its original planked doors. It dates to between 1922 and 1937 and it is shown on the 1937 plan as ‘Aux Boiler House’. This plan also shows the main Boiler House (Block C10) which appears considerably more modern, so its likely date of construction is likely to be closer to 1922 than 1937. This building and Block I may be the earliest RECI buildings on site. Excepting the recent theft of slates from its roof, this building is almost completely ‘as-built’ externally, although it has lost its boilers and any other original internal features that it may have possessed (Plate 39d0. It is currently divided internally with a modern concrete block wall. The building is of some limited interest as an adjunct to the large RECI Laundry (Block E) and its construction may also have heralded the introduction of central heating to the former workhouse. The chronology of this event seems to be backed-up by the large number of cast-iron radiators still in-situ around the buildings. These must have been a welcome addition to the draughty former workhouse buildings, hitherto un-heated altogether or heated by meagre stoves at best. Block G – NHS Boiler House                                                          (See Fig 20 & Plate 39e-f) 
    28. Blocks C, C1 and C2 – ‘Boiler House’                                                   (See Fig 20 & Plate 40)
    29. 9.24    Block B is a large, red brick boiler house with a mono-pitch roof and trall, metal-clad chimney. It was built in the late 1970s or early 1980s. It is of little or no interest.
    1. Block C is a larger, T-shaped, single-storey, red brick building with a steel-trussed, hipped roof to the main range and a flat roof, with parapet and lantern, to the smaller range. Both buildings are first shown on a block plan of 1937 (Fig 10). The main range originally contained Boilers, whilst the smaller, flat roofed range, which is basemented, contains pumps. These buildings appear to post-date Block B, which also contained boilers. They are probably associated with the major reconstruction of the Laundry (Block E), that took place in 1933.
    2. Apart from the timber lantern over the smaller range and some wooden dormers in the main roof, the building is fenestrated with Crittal windows with horizontal glazing bars. Most of the window openings have had their original concrete lintels replaced with soldier lintels in more recent times. The western end, which originally consisted of a whole wall of sliding doors, has been closed in with brickwork and matching Crittal windows (Plate 40d), implying that the existing windows are secondary additions. The roof and parapet of the smaller southern range are also secondary features (Plate 40a-b). Apart from the pumps, that may be original, the building has been stripped of all internal features of interest and converted into a plumber’s workshops and store (Plate 40e-f). This has involved the removal of the boilers and the insertion of concrete bock partitions.
    3. Blocks C2 and C3 are small modern, concrete block, lean-to structures. Block C2 has louvred doors to two sides, whilst Block C3 has a door of steel bars. Both appear to have been used for storing gas bottles. These are of no interest as they relate to the use of the building as a plumber’s shop.Introduction
    4. Block E – ‘Laundry’                                                                                   (See Fig 20-21 & Plates 41- 43)
    5. Block E is a series of larger, single-storey industrial structures that formerly comprised the workhouse / home / hospital Laundry. The new Laundry was a substantial reconstruction of the old workhouse Washroom / Laundry that appears to have filled the whole of the eastern (women’s) range of single-storey workhouse workrooms. At first glance, with their large ranges of small-pane, timber windows and large, steel-trussed roofs, the buildings appear to be a largely single-phase, 1930s building. They do nevertheless incorporate some substantial fragments of earlier buildings. These include the last surviving fragments of the long, single-storey ranges of workrooms that formerly lay to the east and west of the workhouse Infirmary (Block F). They also contain the last remaining fragments of any of the former walls that enclosed the workhouse and divided the various exercise yards and a Drying Room constructed by the South Metropolitan District School Board in 1892-3.
    6. The complex comprises four main buildings or elements. The principal of these are Blocks E1 and E4, two large steel-trussed roofed Laundry buildings, designed by Wykeham Chancellor (architects) for the Royal Eastern Counties Institution in 1933. While these incorporate fragmentary remains of earlier workhouse-period structures, Wykeham Chancellor retained and incorporated two earlier structures almost in their entirety. These are an Airing Room (Block E2) that had previously been inserted into the eastern end of the former workroom range and a Drying Room erected by the South Metropolitan District School Board in 1892-3 (Block E3). The latter building had itself incorporated parts of the original workhouse boundary wall.
    7. This group survives very much as completed in 1933-4 and its interpretation is greatly assisted by the survival of a very large roll of original architect’s drawings, containing both a detailed survey of the buildings as then existing (including Figs 22 to 24) and of the new buildings proposed (ERO D/F 8/341). As mid-20th-century ancillary structures, these buildings are of secondary significance. They are of some interest however, both on account of the fragments of earlier fabric they incorporate and as a well-preserved example of a medium-sized 1930s institutional laundry.
    8. Block E1 – Ironing Room                                                                     (See Figs 20-24 & Plate 41e-i)
    9. Block E1 is a large, well illuminated, open space, with a large, steel-trussed roof, lantern and ranges of pivoting timber windows to north and south. The building is almost entirely unaltered from its state as rebuilt in 1933, but, as stated above, it incorporates significant fabric from earlier structures. Thus, whilst its north wall is entirely a creation of the 1933 rebuilding, the west wall retains fabric from the former eastern wall of the lost portion of the east range of the original workhouse Infirmary (Block F3 – above). The east wall incorporates much historic fabric, much of it from the pre-1933 Folding and Drying Rooms of the old Laundry (Plate 42a-b). From their fabric, these appear to date largely to the tenure of the South Metropolitan District School Board, but some parts, principally those retaining buttressing on the exterior, appear to be the last fragmentary remains of the old workhouse boundary wall (see Blocks E2 and E3, below) (Plate 42b).
    10. The south wall also incorporates much historic fabric, in this instance the south wall of the original eastern range of single-storey women’s workrooms, dating from 1837-9. This wall was heightened and completely re-fenestrated in 1933, but its eastern end (the south wall of Block E2) remains very little altered, retaining two piers and two blocked windows (Plate 42c). This better-preserved section is clearly of the workhouse phase, although apparently not of the 1837-9 build, as the workrooms originally had projecting bays at their extremities (Fig 2-3). Comparison of the pre-reconstruction (1933) and contemporary east and south elevations of the current buildings well illustrates the fragmentary survival of pre-1933 fabric (see Fig 24).
    11. Internally and externally this block remains virtually unaltered from its condition as reconstructed in 1933 and it remains largely undivided, excepting a modern, ephemeral hardboard-clad stud partition. There are two large concrete plinths that correspond to the positions of a gas engine and machinery shown (and detailed) in the roll of 1933 drawings. The western wall retains an in-situ bearing box for the power-transmission line-shafting shown in the 1933 drawings (Plate 41h).Block E2 – Airing Room                                                                       (See Figs 20-24 & Plate 42)
    12. Block E2 was the Airing Room of the laundry, both before and after the reconstruction of 1933. It is the only two-storey part of the Laundry block and the upper floor is still approached by the 19th-centuy timber staircase shown on the pre-reconstruction surrey of 1933 (Plate 42d-f). These survey drawings show that this building, which formerly terminated the eastern range of workhouse workrooms, formerly had a hipped roof and an external chimney stack on its eastern elevation (Fig 24).
    13. Whilst the hipped roof shown on the 1933 survey drawings was lost when the building was brought under the overall steel-trussed roof of Block E1, the walls were not greatly disturbed. Thus the workhouse-period north and west walls still retain their scribed render wall finishes, which are ascribed to the tenure of the SMDSB (1882-1900) as they occur in the Drying Room (Block E3, below), which is known to have been built by the in 1892-3. The exterior of the eastern wall was heightened and shorn of its chimney stack in 1933, but it retains original workhouse-period buttressing and an in-situ cast-iron framed window and another that was re-sited when the gable-end wall was heightened in 1933 (Plate 42a-b). There was formerly a third of these cast-iron windows, which illuminated the Drying Room (Block E3) (see Figs 23 and 24). Because the Drying Room is known to have been built by the SMDSB (LMA SMDS 79), these windows are likely date to the same period of build (1892-3). The thicker sections of walling, which retain external buttressing, appear to be the fragmentary remains of the original end east wall of the original workhouse-period women’s workroom range, probably dating to 1837-9.
    14. The southern elevation is almost unaltered from its pre-1933 state. It was heightened by a few courses only, but it retains two piers / buttresses and two workhouse-period windows / doors with early brick blocking (Plate 42c right). The render on the lower part of the wall pre-dates the 1933 reconstruction. Whilst of workhouse-period origin, this section of wall would not appear to date to the primary 1837-9 phase, as the workrooms had a projecting bay at this location (see Figs 2 and 3).
    15. Internally this block appears to retain a 19th-century first floor and the planked door leading to it (Plate 42g) also is very early, with a wooden-cased lock and a frame with reeded arrisses. The pre-1933 door to the lower storey was situated beneath the staircase, but this was blocked in 1933 and moved further north.
    16. Block E3 – Drying Room (See Figs 20-24 & Plate 43)                                
    17. Block E2 is a small rectangular, red brick building, with a flat roof. It was constructed by the SMDSB in 1892-2 as a Drying Room (LMA SMDS 79), a provenance apparently confirmed by a corbelled external chimney-breast (revealing the former presence of a heating stove) on its northern elevation (Plate 43c). This external chimney-breast is very similar to those on the SMDSB School Rooms (Blocks A1 and D1). It would appear that the SMDSB Drying Room also incorporated parts of the original workhouse boundary wall, notably the thicker sections with buttresses on the exterior (Plate 43b).
    18. The ‘as existing’ 1933 survey shows this block almost exactly as it is today, excepting two inserted windows in its northern wall and an inserted door in its east wall, replacing a cast-iron window. These were all added in 1933. Detailed study nevertheless shows that its upper walls, the flat roof and the small window in the eastern elevation are not primary and it is thought that this building may originally have had a pitched roof. Internally there is nothing of interest, excepting the scribed render that covers all area excepting the uppermost parts of the walls and around later insertions (Plate 43f). The scribed render matches that found elsewhere, notably within other parts of the eastern end of the Laundry and externally and internally in the Probationer’s lean-tos behind the entrance range (see Blocks T3 and T6). This presence of this render here would appear to show that the scribed render elsewhere may be a SMDSB feature.
    19. Block E4 – Washing Room
      (See Figs 20-24 & Plate 41a-d)
    20. Block E4 was constructed, together with Block E1, in 1933. It has the same type of steel-trussed roof and its south wall has the same fenestration and detailing as that of Block E1. It also remains very little altered from its state as completed in 1933, retaining its original small-pane timber windows and external doors. Study of the original architect’s plans shows that this room housed large industrial washing machines and the various fixings and cast-iron grilled floor gullies are exactly as laid out when the building was constructed.
    21. The remains of earlier buildings are particularly fragmentary within this structure, although the west wall and half of the north wall pertain to the east range of the former workhouse Infirmary (Block F3). The walls are heavily painted and partially rendered internally and little of note is currently visible within the east wall. There is a blocked door (with chamfered concrete lintel) in the north wall. This had already been blocked at the time of the 1933 survey. The south wall retains historic fabric in its lower, thicker section only (Plate 41d).


The Union Workhouse, later The Bridge Home



by Janet Gyford, updated August 2003

See also  “Bridge Home architects’ report 2003, (without assessment)” et al.


 Built under the ‘Poor Law Amendment Act’ of 1834, which required the amalgamation of parishes into Unions for the purposes of poor relief, and that the Unions should build workhouses. At first the new Guardians continued to use the old Coggeshall and Witham workhouses. They didn’t decide to have a new one till 6 March 1837 (and then only on the casting vote of the chairman, Lord Rayleigh). The following information is mostly from the first two volumes of Guardians’ minutes (ERO G/WM 1 and 2)

New building:

Plans: decided on 3 April to advertise for plans, and on 8 May accepted the ones sent in by Scott and Moffatt. On 12 June Mr Moffatt attended and received instructions and again on 21 August with the builder. It took at least two requests in Sept to get Mr M to come again and sign the contract. After completion, in May 1839, the Guardians instructed their clerk ‘to write to Messrs Scott and Moffatt to inform them unless they came to inspect the works at the Union House within a fortnight, the Guardians would appoint someone else to do the same’. ON 6 January 1840 they decided to write to Scott and Moffatt saying that ‘the Board objected to their Bill’.

Land: various sites were looked at, and the Guardians at first chose a piece of land between Witham and Rivenhall but the tenant declined to vacate it, so in June 1837 they agreed to buy the present site in Hatfield Road from Colonel Strutt.

Builder: Tenders sought June 1837, and in August accepted Messrs Steggles and Sons at £5,295, subject to some alteration (not a local firm, perhaps Suffolk?). Decided to begin work at end of August.. Was given £1,000 on account in Nov 1837. In July 1838, Board declined to give him another £,1000 until more progress made.

Completion and opening: It’s not entirely clear when the new Workhouse was opened but it must have been either at the end of December 1838 or during January 1839. On 14 December 1838 the Guardians were still advertising for tenders for goods to be delivered to the old workhouses. But adverts for the new chaplain, schoolmaster, schoolmistress, porter and nurse say that they were to take up their duties according on 25 December 1838. And certainly by 1 February 1829 tenders were sought for delivery of goods the ‘Union House’. (Chelmsford Chronicle, 23 Nov 1838, 14 Dec 1838, 1 Feb 1839).

I haven’t looked at minutes after March 1840.

Censuses show number of inmates as follows,

1841          131

1851          219

1861          156

1871          209

Dissolution of Witham Union

In c.1880 the Witham Union was disbanded and the Witham workhouse closed. The Union was amalgamated with Braintree and the residents from Witham sent there.

I think that a problem with the Master of the workhouse at Witham precipitated this change. I haven’t researched it properly but I have a note from the Guardians’ minutes of 31 March 1879 about charges of drunkenness against the Matron and of ‘Falsehood’ against the Master (Mr Crockett). Also, a committee reported back that had been appointed to investigate charges preferred by the Nurse against the Master. These were considered proved. There is reference to Mr C being absent from the workhouse for his own pleasure, collusion with the porter, waste in cooking the meat, the mode of administering, and overbearing conduct to officers of the House especially the nurse.

The Local Government Board were asked to act. Then on 14 April there was a proposal to dissolve the Union, but Braintree preferred amalgamation. I seem to have stopped there in looking at the Guardians’ minutes (ERO G/WM)

Maybe the newspapers might shed more light if they were allowed to report such things.


The South Metropolitan School District bought the building for a Poor Law School in 1882. The SMSD was a combination of various London Poor Law Unions, founded by order of the Poor Law Board in 1849; they had various other schools. Witham was for ‘orphan and deserted children’ – boys and girls – from the District’s area, i.e. Camberwell, Greenwich, Woolwich, Stepney etc.

According to a booklet about the District (LMA SMSD 79)

‘The Witham School … was purchased in 1882, and great alterations made. Additional land was bought in 1884 and 1898, while Schoolrooms and a Drying-room were erected in 1892-1893 and an Infirmary in 1897-98’ (the latter was for 24 beds according to Witham UDC building plan number 85, ERO D/UWi Pb 1/1). Certified to accommodate 200 in 1897 (there were 194 ‘scholars’ here for the 1891 census). Eventually opinion turned against such large schools. The children were moved elsewhere in November 1900.

Records at London Metropolitan Archives with reference SMSD are:

(1) specific to Witham: admission and discharge registers 1882-1900 (194-198), creed register 1882-1900 (199), death register 1883-1899 (200) (I have ms notes on these).

(2) about the district in general but possibly relevant: booklet about the SMD and its Dissolution (79, see above). Also minutes, accounts, statistics, loose papers, letters from Poor Law Board, which I haven’t looked at.


The MAB bought it in 1900.

1900 – 1906: school for children with ringworm (1901 census (135 patients); 1902 and 1906 directories)

1906 – 1922 ‘Industrial Home for Feeble Minded Boys’. (1908, 1910, 1912, 1914, 1917, 1922 directories)

What most people remember are the ‘Bridge Home boys’ who were often very capable and had an excellent brass band. There must be books about Industrial Homes. I think they may have been intended, at least in part, for boys who were troublesome.

During the First World War, there was a Red Cross Hospital for wounded soldiers in the separate Hospital / Infirmary Wing, which is shown here on this Ordnance Survey Map of 1922 (scale of original 1:2500). (see also photos M612 and M630)


The whole place was sold in 1923, under the following description:

‘Bridge Training Home … comprising blocks of buildings in red brickwork, containing the following extensive accommodation: Lodge, Offices, Committee Rooms, Strongroom, Recreation and School Rooms, Bedrooms, Store Rooms, Cloak Rooms and Lavatories. Stone and other Staircases, Cellars, Kitchen and Washhouses, Laundry, Workshops, Chapel, Two Gymnasia and an Open Air Swimming Bath, also a detached Infirmary of two floors, divided into Wards, with two stone staircases, Lavatories and Kitchens, and central heating. Paved Yards, Lawns, Orchard and Kitchen Garden with Greenhouses, Storeshed, Fowls houses, Pig Styes and Fruit Store … about 7 acres … suitable for occupation as a School, Home, Institution or similar purpose, or could be readily adapted for factory purposes’. Fixtures, fitting and plant to be included in the sale. (LMA MAB 2272).

Papers include (LMA MAB 2272):

(1) First proof of printed sale catalogue from which the above quotation is taken. London Auction Mart 21 Feb 1923

(2) Schedule of deeds, including bundle of old abstracts and deeds.

(3) Typed conditions of sale, and handwritten version.

(4) Very large poster for sale

(5) Letter from Ministry of Health, 3 March 1923, allowing sale for £9,500.

(6) Indenture 4 April 1923 conveying property from MAP to Eastern Counties Institution (1 typed page)

(7) Material re title.

Records at London Metropolitan Archives with reference MAB are:

(1) specific to Witham: admission and discharge registers 1911-1922 (2269-2269), death register 1905-1922 (2270), chaplain’s report book 1901-1906 (2271), papers re sale in 1923, including printed particulars (2272, see above).

(2) about the Board in general: minutes (in history library), which I haven’t looked at)


The RECI bought it in 1923. They were the people who ran Severalls hospital etc. at Colchester.



Exchange of emails with Peter Higginbotham who runs

From: “Peter Higginbotham” <>
To: “Janet Gyford” <>
Subject: Re: witham, essex
Date: Mon, 8 Nov 2004 17:41:32 -0000
Hi Janet,
thanks very much indeed for passing all this on. Some very interesting stuff which I’ll try and add to my Witham page (with an appropriate credit to you, of course) when I get the chance. My impression is that S&M spread themselves very thin – chasing round the country for new contracts and not really spending enough time on their existing ones. All best wishes and many thanks again, Peter

—– Original Message —–
From: “Janet Gyford” <>
To: “Peter Higginbotham”
Sent: Monday, November 08, 2004 8:54 AM
Subject: Re: witham, essex
> Hello Peter
> Attached is a summary I did re the Bridge Home (Union Workhouse) for an architect who was recently working on the refurbishment for flats. He sent me a very long report of a survey he did of the place, I’d better not send it you without his consent but he might well send you one too is you ask him and explain your interest. He is Rob Kinchin-Smith, email Also I’m sending notes on something from PRO and on the first two volumes of minutes of the Guardians. I always find it amusing that they got so fed up with Messrs Scott and Moffatt. When the Witham local worthies were planning a new church in 1841 Messrs S and M submitted a plan and came to a meeting but were rejected – it doesn’t say anywhere why this was, but I suspect that their reputation as slow workers at the workhouse didn’t help. ALso rejected was William Tite who became famous for the Royal Exchange. INstead they chose a John Brown from Norwich – his ceilings started falling down not long after the church was finished and I wouldn’t really say the building is very distinguished.

There is also some stuff in Essex Record Office about the old parish workhouse, ERO D/P 30/18/1, 2, 7, and 30/12/26, but I don’t seem to have anything from that in a conveniently sendable form.
All the best Janet

At 20:50 07/11/04 +0000, you wrote:
>Hi Janet, thanks very much for your kind words. I think I had perfect picture-taking conditions when I was at Witham. Thank you, yes I’d be very interested in any additional information you have on the place.

> >All best wishes, Peter

—– Original Message —–
> >From: “Janet Gyford” <>

To: <>
> >Sent: Saturday, November 06, 2004 10:11 AM
>Subject: witham, essex
> > Hello Peter I’ve been admiring your pics of Witham Union Workhouse (the Bridge) on the web site – I tried often to get the archway with the tower behind but always got it wrong ! I have some more info, from PRO etc, if you are interested ? Janet Gyford


Subject: RE: bridge home, witham -> [Scanned]
Date: Mon, 11 Oct 2004 11:09:02 +0100
Thread-Topic: bridge home, witham -> [Scanned]
thread-index: AcStfxY1DJ9GQm7hTXy/OxhlF96Q2AB+KTeg
From: “Rob Kinchin-Smith” <>
To: “Janet Gyford” <>
Hi Janet
I’d say that, given the date, a wall cavity would be most unusual, so estimating on solid walls would be an educated guess / assumption.
Many thanks for all your help in guiding me round the archives and for the very useful information you supplied.
If its any help to you, please find attached a copy of the report with details of the (then) proposed development and the assessment thereof removed.
I gather that the prospective developers sold the property on, so I have no idea now what has become of the building, but hopefully whatever happens to it, it will be / has been sympathetic in character.
Very best regards and thanks again for your help

—–Original Message—–
From: Janet Gyford []
Sent: 08 October 2004 22:38
To: Rob Kinchin-Smith
Subject: bridge home, witham -> [Scanned]
Hello Rob
I sent you some info about the history Bridge Home at Witham a while back.

I might have mentioned then that I was interested in trying to make a rough estimate of how many bricks there were in the original build – I’m trying to picture them all coming by horse and cart ! I’ve returned to the question now and wonder whether you would be able to tell me whether the external walls are cavity walls or not? I.e. now I have estimated the size of them, should I double it ? The internal walls will remain a mystery but if I just get an idea about the outside it’ll be something.
All the best
Janet Gyford

Subject: RE: bridge home, witham -> [Scanned] -> [Scanned]
Date: Mon, 11 Oct 2004 12:59:08 +0100
Thread-Topic: bridge home, witham -> [Scanned] -> [Scanned]
thread-index: AcSvgW74QCUnbA7VTYOD8kYQr/R0IwAB8iVg
From: “Rob Kinchin-Smith” <>
To: “Janet Gyford” <>

Thanks Janet
My report listed all original fabric and advocated its retention. The HAMP team at Essex County Council (who oversee all Listed Building applications in the County) seemed quite on the case. Hopefully the conversion will thus leave most of the historic fabric intact.


Fred Gaymer, Grasmere, Spinks Lane, December 1988 said:

Brushes used to be made at the Bridge Home. The man trained at Braintree. The Bridge Home ‘boys’ had all the equipment

my documents/oral history/conversations unrecorded/gaymer, fred, about bridge home and brushes, december 1988.doc


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. …

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.

Copy of photo obtained. Caption says ‘Mr John Butler, Witham’s last Town Crier. Reproduction by Butcher’s Studios’.



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


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)