The Foxearth and District Local History Society

Committee Announcements

Meetings, announcements and notices for the Foxearth and District Local History Society, and associated organisations.

Foxearth in the Great War. by Corrine Cox: 15th November 2017

Even though about six regular members were missing, the Society had a record attendance of 32 for Corinne Cox's talk about Foxearth and the Great War on Tuesday 14th November. The talk described the effect of the First World War on the lives of the people of Foxearth, villagers, farm workers and Brewery workers. We were first taken back in time to the peaceful days before the Great War, when the Brewery was prominent in Foxearth with many social activities such as football, cricket, and quoits being played against other villages. In January 1914 a new reading room, The Men's Club opened; it's now a private residence. Later that year all changed as shooting began in Europe and 78 Foxearth men joined the forces to fight in 23 different regiments. Twenty were killed and these are remembered on the War Memorial in the churchyard. Many were injured and lived on with the mental issues from the war. We should not forget these sacrifices.

In particular Corinne mentioned the Leggott family, two of whom received the DSM and the DCM ; a Military Medal was awarded to a member of the Chinnery family. Corinne outlined the effects of the war on people living in the village, the way in which tribunals were held to consider exemptions from military service and the plight of non-combatants and conscientious objectors. She listed and discussed the war-wounded who were awarded the silver war badge upon discharge so as not to be the target of white feathers whilst not in uniform. Corinne related the sad tale of the hardships endured by the Sidney Deal family and gave an account of the experiences of the only female service person from the village, Nurse Eileen Carter. The Zeppelin raid during which incendiaries were dropped over Foxearth also got a mention.

This was a fascinating and detailed talk - well illustrated with photographs, anecdotes and artefacts and demonstrating Corinne's deep level of research into an important piece of local history. Already an estabished author with her earlier book "Foxearth Treasures"- a social history of the village - Corinne is preparing to publish "Foxearth Pals" upon which her talk tonight was based. Her research has been supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund and all proceeds go to the Parish Church restoration fund. A most interesting and suc.cessful evening for the Society. Many present complimented Corinne on the excellence of her presentation and she has been booked for a return visit next May to give an illustrated talk on the archaeological excavations in Foxearth of 2013/14 and 2017.

John Grimshaw, the Lancashire Weaver. by Anne Grimshaw: 12th September 2017

The feelings and actions of a young weaver from Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire, who served at Waterloo were dramatically portrayed by local historian, Anne Grimshaw, to members of the District Society on Tuesday 12th September. In costume of the period - which was subtly altered to reflect different people - Anne appeared as mother Dolly, sister Sally and wife Phoebe to John Grimshaw (born 1789) ; no relation as far as Anne has been able to discover.

In 1806, very much against his parent's wishes, John left his job as a hand loom weaver and enlisted in the Coldstream Guards. His first letter home was from London which he described as "bigger than Blackburn"! Next he was in Spain "hotter than Lancashire" and then in Portugal which was said to have "flies everywhere" and "people sleeping in huts with their animals" In 1815, after Waterloo, he wrote again from London about the "big fight" and mentioned that he had been injured. More about this came to light when he came limping home at Christmas 1818 giving a graphic account of how a surgeon had removed a musket ball - which had been flattened when it hit his hip. He was also injured in the right arm. Whilst recuperating he was given a carbine to shoot the rats that were around the hospital. On his arrival home he enquired whether another local lad, Thomas Pollard, whom he had met in 1811 in Portugal had been in touch. Dolly replied that he had - and he had married John's sister Sally! John saw action in several other battles and after his army service he suffered from bad dreams and episodes of sleep screaming indicating that "battle fatigue " is not a modern condition. He was discharged from the army in 1818 as unfit having received a number of medals and awarded a pension of 9d a day.

As "Sally" Anne described some of John's experience of Belgium where there was said to be a lot of fever and ague. John returned to work as a hand loom weaver and in 1828 married Phoebe Tomlinson, also a weaver, and these two became involved in the active unrest that workers started to show as they saw the introduction of machinery into weaving and steam looms as threatening their livelihood. "Phoebe" recounted her arrest, her appearance at the Assizes for rioting and her sentence of 12 months hard labour. John died in 1851 of asthma aged 61. His army record showed him to be older indicating that he may have been untruthful about his age when enlisting!

This "one woman show" demonstrated the deep level of research Anne had undertaken to compile this intriguing account in which, she said, a few assumptions had been made on the basis of the evidence of the times. A carefully designed and interesting evening. Anne related how Thomas Pollard was quite a hero having received a campaign medal with 9 bars. The whereabouts of this decoration was unknown for some years but persistent enquiries by Anne had finally unearthed it and it now was held proudly in the regimental archives. Anne was warmly thanked on behalf on 17 members by Secretary Clare Mathieson.

Information was presented about the Society's annual dinner on 12th December at the George, Cavendish and members should book their place with Clare as soon as possible. The next meeting will be on 10th October at 7.30pm in Foxearth Village Hall when Judy Ivy will talk about the artistic connections between John Constable and Thomas Gainsborough in the context of the Suffolk/Essex landscape.

Sue Ryder and the the Sue Ryder Foundation by Phyllis Felton: 9th May 2017

Last year the Society enjoyed a talk by local historian, Phyllis Felton, on the Walnut Tree Hospital and nurse training there. On 9th May we once again welcomed Mrs Felton to tell us about perhaps the most respected charity worker of the 20th century - Sue Ryder - and the great Foundation she established. Phyllis had clearly researched her subject thoroughly and her enthusiasm for this well-known local figure was evident.

(Margaret) Susan Ryder was born in Leeds in 1924 and was the youngest of ten children. Her parents had a culture of always helping people and this influence - combined with her strong religious faith - was dominant throughout her life. From the age of 8 she was encouraged to do all sorts of jobs on the family estate even helping the servants with domestic chores and cooking. She was educated at Bendenden School and at the outbreak of war in 1939 she volunteered for the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry and was accepted when she gave her year of birth as 1923; this was a fiction that she maintained all her life -even in her autobiography. The true date only emerged with the discovery of her birth certificate when she died in 2000. She was soon assigned to the Special Operations Executive in Poland where she drove agents around and served as a radio operator and also worked in Italy and North Africa. At the end of the war Sue Ryder signed up to the International Red Cross and this work brought her face to face with some of the worst concentration camps in Europe. She had a particular affection for Poland which was reciprocated by various awards and the naming of parks in her memory. For her work in Yugoslavia she was presented with a medal by President Tito.

In 1951 Sue Ryder's work with the Red Cross ended and she realised that there was a pressing need for homes for so many displaced persons. She used her mother's house in Cavendish to create the first of many homes and this extended property became an International Head Quarters of the Sue Ryder Foundation which she set up in 1953. In 1959 she married Group Captain Leonard Cheshire VC who had already founded the Cheshire homes for the disabled charity and individually and jointly the pair received many honours. In 1979 Sue Ryder was made a life peer taking the title Baroness Ryder of Warsaw and her outspoken support for the victims of war atrocities continued vigorously in the House of Lords. Admiration for the Foundation's work was such that it had 47 well-known people as its patrons and 56 "counsellors" who gave freely of their time and expertise.

Mrs Felton displayed many contemporary photographs as she painted a revealing and absorbing picture of an extraordinarily determined woman who hated the limelight but who liked to be in control and whose dedicated and tireless work lives on in the 80 or so homes, hundreds of charity shops and thousands of volunteers serving under the Sue Ryder banner. Mrs Felton was warmly thanked by Secretary, Clare Mathieson on behalf of 18 members.

The Annual General Meeting.14th March 2017

The Annual General Meeting of the Foxearth and District Local History Society was held on 14th March 2017 in Foxearth Village Hall with Mrs Lynda Rumbold in the Chair. There were 23 members present. A very warm welcome was expressed to former Treasurer John Geddes on his return from major surgery.

A financial report showed a satisfactory situation. An application to the Parish Council for a grant of £250 had been made for 2017/18 and it was agreed - since the Council requested predictive figures for future years - that this should be increased to £350 subsequently. It was also agreed that the annual membership subscription and the meetings fee for guests should remain at £10 and £2 respectively. Cheque signatories would continue for the present.

Preparation of the 2017 programme and the general running of the Society, had been in the hands of the Chairman and Secretary Clare Mathieson and thanks were conveyed for a job well done. It seemed quite unnecessary to extend the Committee beyond these two very capable and willing volunteers who were happy with the situation but who asked that members  provide their contact details if there was a sudden need for help.

The success of the web site was a tribute to the continuing diligent work of Andrew Clarke.

The President, Ashley Cooper, reminded members of the book fund which he had established several years ago and which existed to support publication of literature of local interest; the fund stood at just over £900.

In connection with local archaeology Corinne Cox asked that anyone interested in having a 1 metre square test pit being dug in their garden should contact her. The procedure would be carried out by volunteers who had already uncovered some ancient finds in the villages.

Members had been asked to bring along wedding photographs and after a refreshing cheese and wine break the anecdotes began to flow. We heard about how the happy day had been mildly disrupted by weather, football crowds, vehicle breakdowns, how money was still owed for a taxi fare and how courtship at a distance had thrived by the exchange of numerous letters which were still in the family archive. It was generally felt that the spontaneous response of members to the challenge of providing their own entertainment had been successful and enjoyable. One member suggested an evening devoted to the history of our houses and this was met with enthusiasm.

Next meeting: 11th April at 7.30pm in Foxearth Village Hall when Andrew Richardson will talk about the History of the Quay.

The Horsehair-weaving Industry: John Miners, 14th February 2017

The multi-coloured samples of woven horse hair that John Miners brought along to the Society's meeting on 14th February were a long way removed from the bits of stuffing that some of us recalled from the inside of old sofas and in his detailed and well-illustrated talk John took us through the processes that turned this natural protein fibre into a versatile and immensely durable fabric. John is now a freelance textile consultant who began his career as an apprentice at Courtaulds; as a school leaver, whose family lived opposite the factory, he reasoned that a job there would allow him to minimise the time between getting out of bed and clocking in for work - but he moved on!

John Boyd Ltd is the only remaining weaver of horse hair in the UK and is based in Castle Cary in Somerset. John Boyd was the son of a Scottish merchant and he came to England in his early 20s as a travelling draper. He started his horse hair weaving business in 1837 in a chapel yard and by 1841 he employed about 30 weavers. By 1851 his enterprise had grown to 30 women, 9 men and 34 children involved in various operations. The children fed the horse tails into the looms and this had to be done in single strands- and alternately, because the hair is thicker at the top end of the tail, to ensure an even weave. With the coming of the 1870 Education Act, which forbade the employment of children under 13, mechanical feed machines were devised. At this time most of the hair used came from the local area where horse breeding was popular for agriculture and transport. Later in the century hair had to be imported because of increased mechanisation and nowadays most of the raw material comes from Mongolia. Before any hair gets near a loom it has to be washed - and conditioned -and sorted by hand (a process called hackling) to remove short, discoloured or brittle pieces. Hair never wears out and can be dyed any colour and the woven product is much in demand by antique restorers as well as modern furniture manufacturers for hotels, restaurants, shoes etc. In the weaving the hair is the weft - the horizontal strand (maximum length 26") - and this is combined with cotton, usually, as the vertical warp.

John Boyd did much for the town building cottages and terraces for his workers; at the turn of the century the company employed about 200 people such was the popularity of horse hair fabric.

John was warmly thanked by Secretary Clare Mathieson for a most interesting talk which generated many questions from the 22 members and guests present.
It was noted that John Geddes - member and past Treasurer - was seriously ill in hospital and best wishes for his speedy recovery were expressed.

Clare reminded members that the next meeting would be the AGM on 14th March - 7.30pm in Foxearth Village Hall -with cheese and wine. Please bring wedding photographs (yours, your parents, your grandparents?) and be prepared to be anecdotal!

Clare also pointed out that there were seats available on the trip to Harwich on July 11th (guided tour of the historic centre and the Redoubt Fort) and anyone wishing to be included should contact her without delay.

Foxearth and District Local History Society Christmas Dinner: 13th Dec 2016

It has become traditional in the last few years to hold the annual dinner of the Foxearth and District Local History Society in the George at Cavendish and in 2016 the event took place on Tuesday 13th December. Twenty six members enjoyed their menu choices amidst paper hats and cracker "jokes" and furrowed their brows over a challenging history crossword and quiz. President Ashley Cooper complimented Secretary Clare Mathieson and the committee on its programme selection and particularly on the involvement of members at some meetings

Clare gave details of the programme of events for 2017 which would include talks on historical aspects of weaving and a weaver at Waterloo, histories of the Quay and the Sue Ryder Foundation, Pentlow Hall and Church, Constable and Gainsborough and Foxearth in the Great War. In July there will be a guided tour of Harwich and the Redoubt Fort. The first meeting of the new Year will be on 14th February at 7.30pm in Foxearth Village Hall when John Miners will talk about the history of weaving with horse hair (Horse tales!)

'Hev yer gotta loight boy', North Essex Ballads 11th October 2016

  "Hev yer gotta loight boy" was not a phrase uttered by Keith Lovell in his entertaining exploration of Local History through North Essex ballads at the meeting of the District Society on 11th October- but it illustrates the expert way in which he recited a selection of these folk legends.
A retired priest, Keith is well-known locally for his series of books on village signs and these were on display. As a proud  Essex man - and keen Colchester united supporter - Keith spoke about his long-held fascination with the ballads which date from around the end of the 19th century and which were collected mainly by Charles Edward Benham of the established family of printers and newspaper proprietors in Colchester. Charles Benham was a versatile character; a writer, artist and inventor of a toy known as Benham's top which when spinning gives different effects in colour perception. This is now used as a diagnostic tool in eye conditions.

  In an authentic accent - and pausing occasionally to elucidate a bit of obscure dialect - Keith read a number of ballads dealing with a variety of human emotions. There was a ballad of astonishment at the sale of a farm - and what was going to happen to the workers, one about the hopeless love a country lad had for Julia, the parson's daughter and - in a ballad of wrath- the speaker rages about the weather, which is never right, and which " fair do make me hollyriled"! Another tells of the mournfulness of an old man facing death and the sad theme was continued in the tale of Jimmy Kingdom who fell off a haystack onto some iron and was never quite right in the head subsequently.  A warning to someone  proposing to spend the first night in a haunted house was very graphic and there was the colourful story of Old Bill, a chancer and artful character, who got up to all sorts of tricks. Paternal pride was evident as a father recounted his son's transition from country bumpkin to well travelled and well turned-out gent. Finally frustration with "New fangled ways" was depicted in a tirade against the Board schools; "put 'em in the fields and let 'em larn to sow"!

This was a lovely talk giving great amusement to the 14 members present and Keith was warmly thanked by Secretary Clare Mathieson.

Clare reminded members of the need to book their places for the Annual Dinner at The George, Cavendish on 13th December and to make their menu selections.

Next Meeting:  Tuesday 8th November 7.30pm in Foxearth Village Hall when Lynda Rumbold will present some archive film