As most of you know, from last year’s AGM, this was to have been my last message to you as Chairman. However, many folk have asked me to stay on for one more year so that a new Chairman can be found. We have discussed this at length at our last Committee Meeting and I have agreed that if it is the will of our members this is what I will do with one proviso: We MUST have at least two new committee members join us. All but one of our Committee have stayed far beyond the length recommended by the National Trust and if we were all to follow their guidelines, we would have to close the group, as some groups have had to do in the past. I am positive that none of us would want this to happen; we all enjoy the work we do for the Trust, our evening meetings together and the outings Paul works so hard to provide.
We are a very happy lot, our Committee meetings are friendly and informal but the work gets done! Please consider whether you could shadow folk on the Committee, try us out to see whether you could fit in, and bring new ideas to try. I really can promise you that we’d never say “No, we don’t do it that way”; we’re much more likely to say “Yes, let’s give it a go!” We are looking for inspiration and new thoughts and Paul will need a new person to do the “Ticking Off”. Does anyone fancy this? Please let me know what you think and a big “Thank You” to those who have already done so.
We’ve had another great year with interesting speakers from whom we’ve learned a lot of facts, very warm outings, our President’s Day at Paycocke’s and a delightful holiday to Tiverton in Devon.
Thank you to everyone who supported our stall at the Cathedral Christmas Market, with special thanks to Thelma and Olive for their knitting and crafts and Laurie for his preserves. The total of £1,312.20 was quite amazing, and another word of thanks must once more go to the Committee who willingly do so much behind the scenes. I must also thank Keith Otter for his mastery of the Supporter Group Website. [You’re welcome!]
For our AGM we hope to have a sheepdog from Hatfield Forest when the shepherd will be explaining his work as part of the evening – we have only to complete the Risk Assessment!
You’ll see from the programme that we have lots of interesting talks planned and if you’re anything like me you’ll find that the talk you don’t really fancy is the one you thoroughly enjoy!
Please read the first paragraph again
On 19 September 2018 Jackie Arnot, our Chairman, welcomed everyone to the first of the new season of evening talks. She then welcomed and introduced the speaker, Yvonne Lawrence. Mrs Lawrence used the alliterative caption her talk to illustrate three important stories which have been woven into the fabric of Chelmsford’s history.
First she looked at it’s development as a market town. This dates from the thirteenth century when the Bishop of London obtained the right for a market to be held in Chelmsford on Fridays. The Bishop also had the wooden bridge over the river, which separated Chelmsford from Moulsham, rebuilt. This had been provided by the Romans, but no-one maintained it after their departure and it had collapsed, leaving Chelmsford isolated. However, the new bridge and market brought in an era of prosperity for the town and soon it was a thriving bustling place, with more and more new properties being built. Eventually it was to have a cattle market, a corn exchange and many important civic buildings. Although many of the features have disappeared, or drastically altered, we now again have market stalls in the High Street – though without the mess and smells of medieval times!
Mrs Lawrence next looked at the influence of the Mildmay family on the history of Chelmsford. Thomas Mildmay arrived in the town in 1506. He was a mercer by trade, making high quality cloth used for clothing used by high quality people. Thomas obviously had ambitions to join them. He bought a property known as Guy Harlings, a good place in which to bring up his fifteen children. He also illegally obtained a coat of arms. He was so determined that his family would prosper that he had an unusually complex will drawn up. This stated that the Mildmay estate could never be sold or broken up, but must always pass to a male Mildmay heir. The family had acquired land and property, and had a mansion (demolished in 1809) on what is now the site of Moulsham Schools. By then the family had run out of heirs and the terms of the will was causing great problems, and in 1839 Parliament gave permission for the will to be revoked.
The third and final strand of Mrs Lawrence’s talk was the arrival in Chelmsford of Marconi. To begin with Marconi was only concerned with the military and naval application of radio signals, he had not thought of vocal transmission or using radio for entertainment. Of course, we all know of the part played by radio in the Titanic tragedy and the huge boost it gave to the Marconi company. But years later something happier happened and we were privileged to hear a recording of Dame Nellie Melba making her historic broadcast from Writtle in 1920. Jackie thanked Mrs Lawrence for her brilliant talk, both informative and entertaining.
On 17 October 2018 Jackie Arnot, our Chairman, welcomed members and friends to a talk on a subject of great relevance to the date: Chelmsford’s Suffragettes. The speaker, Stephen Norris, reminded the audience that 2018 marked the centenary of the beginning of women’s suffrage, though it would be another ten years before women were given equal voting rights with men. In Chelmsford the first campaigner for women’s rights was Anne Knight. From a Quaker background, Anne’s first interest was in the anti-slavery movement. Attending a conference of the movement in London, Anne discovered, to her fury, that she was not allowed to speak. Suddenly realising that women were forced to endure their own kind of slavery, Anne from then on became a fierce supporter of the fight for female equality with males.
Throughout the second half of the nineteenth century, and until the outbreak of the first world war, the campaigners for women’s suffrage grew in numbers and determination. It was surprising to learn that meetings were often held in Chelmsford and supported not only by women resident in the town but by women from all over Essex. Among the Chelmsford supporters was Richenda Christy, daughter of a local manufacturer, while from a little further afield, Margaret and Clara Rackham of Bocking regularly attended meetings. But it was not only women who supported the cause, many men were also sympathetic to women’s claims for equality. One of the best known in Chelmsford was John Ockleford Thompson, proprietor of a local newspaper and seven times mayor of Chelmsford.
It is well known that women were not united in ideas for achieving their aims. The Suffragists believed that speeches and letters were the means to their acceptance, while the Suffragettes were activists, with no qualms about hurling bombs and breaking windows. Both groups had supporters in Chelmsford and the local paper recorded ugly scenes, with women being arrested for causing damage and even assaulting police officers.
Campaigning was halted during WWI but resumed immediately after peace was declared, and soon women over the age of thirty were granted the vote. However, another ten years were to pass before all adults over the age of twenty-one were given the right to vote.
Jackie thanked Stephen for his interesting talk and was sure many were surprised to learn that Chelmsford women were so involved in the fight to gain the vote.
Subsequent reports are much shorter because of the limitations imposed by publication in one of our Essex newspapers.
On 14 November 2018 Ben Cowell, Director General of the Historic Houses Association, described the history and objectives of the organisation. Over the past two centuries factors such as agricultural depression and inheritance tax have left owners struggling with financial problems. Of 182 historic houses identified in Essex, 32 have been lost through demolition, or have had to become hotels, or care homes. Founded in 1973, Historic Houses is an association of owners of such properties, and seeks to save them by encouraging owners in enterprising ways to pay the bills, while keeping their property as a lived-in family home.
Members welcomed a very special speaker to the December meeting, His Majesty King Henry VIII, impersonated by Tony Strange, magnificent in a flamboyant costume. In amusing and colourful (modern) language, Henry described how he met and married each of his six wives, and listed their good and bad points.
His first wife, Katherine of Aragon, had been briefly married to his older brother before his tragic early death. Initially Henry and Katherine’s was a happy marriage and lasted twenty-four years. Sadly, although pregnant many times, Katherine produced only one child, a daughter, who reached adult years. Henry decided he had committed a sin marrying his brother’s widow and he had grounds for divorce. Working through a further five wives eventually produced a son, only ten years before Henry’s death. He would never know his son died at fifteen, so it had all been to no avail.
On 9 January members enjoyed a journey through eight thousand years of history as Marit Leenstra, from the London Museum of Archaeology, described the discoveries that had been made during the excavations carried out for Crossrail. These showed that the earliest East Londoners had been both energetic and ingenious. Evidence showed they had constructed wooden walkways across marshy ground and had busy factories making flint implements. The Roman occupation was another busy period and produced a wealth of horseshoes. After a time gap in which no items from the Saxon, Viking or Medieval periods were discovered, excavations at Stepney moved on to the Tudor period with the remains of a fine manor house. Over the next three centuries the areas excavated showed increasingly intense occupation by industry, including the site of the London Iron works.
The morning of 13 October 2018 was spent at Stansted Mountfitchet where, of course, the original Norman castle was built at the top of a steep hill. After the breath-taking climb we were rewarded with the choice of visiting the toy museum or the replica Norman village. The museum, an independent venture, is rammed with toys, books, games, every kind of childhood delight, spanning three centuries – many of the newer exhibits being very familiar to some of us!
Next door the Norman village contained replicas of dwellings and workshops that would have made up a typical settlement. The buildings housed rather scary (and vocal) animated figures.
Blessed by fine weather, we journeyed on to Wimpole Hall and estate for an afternoon visit. Built in 1640, the Hall has had many owners, the last of which, Mrs Elsie Bambridge, was the daughter of Rudyard Kipling. Mrs Bambridge bequeathed the property to the National Trust on her death in 1976. The house has many interesting features, from the chapel to the plunge bath, while the large estate offers a variety of woodland and countryside walks.
Altogether a brilliant end to our programme of summer outings.
28 November 2018 was a cold, overcast, day for our slightly later 9.45 departure and remained that way for the duration of the trip, with a total non-appearance of the sun. We had a long hold-up near the bottom end of the M11 because of an accident but we arrived in time at the pick-up point in Redbridge for our Blue Guide, Martin, an older chap who was with us for the whole day. My word, could he talk! Our first drop-off was at the Exmouth Market in Clerkenwell, which few of us had even known about, let alone visited. Martin had recommended lots of nearby restaurants as well as the street food stalls, which were mainly patronised by students and local office workers. There was also an Anglo-Catholic church called the Church of the Holy Redeemer, which was open. The market itself was a come-down; it consisted almost entirely of cheap food stalls, with little opportunity for bargain hunting. Because of the cold weather most were happy to return early to the warmth of the coach.
We only had a short drive to the main attraction for the day – the Post Office Museum. It was actually split between two sites; the first, where we alighted and waited further instructions, contained the shop, cafeteria and exhibition centre. We then crossed over the road to the building that housed the underground rail system. We’d been divided into three groups and given different boarding times, indicated on our wrist bands. Most of those in the last 3: 35 slot decided to walk back to the cafeteria for drinks and to look at the exhibition, which was fascinating. On returning for our train ride, we put our bags and coats in the lockers provided, as requested, so we could cope with the cramped seating in the narrow carriages. There were several banged heads as we wriggled on board! The ride was explained by a recorded commentary and included stops at former loading areas. Afterwards there was time for a quick look at the small exhibition on the history of the railway, which included a simulation of the Travelling Post Office (TPO), complete with its wobbling floor as the train moved! The rail tunnels were an amazing achievement of engineering but there was a sense of sadness as we contemplated the enormous changes in correspondence systems that had emerged in our lifetimes with us hardly noticing they were happening. Everybody was back on the coach in good time ready for our next destination: The West End to see the Christmas illuminations.
There were many “oohs” and “aahs” as we found ourselves in Regent Street and passing the surrounding side-streets. Our route took us to the far top end of Regent Street before turning off towards Hyde Park, where a massive brightly-lit funfair had been set up, and thence to Knightsbridge, Harrods, Piccadilly and the Strand. The lights were certainly impressive, as were the displays in the shop windows. Even the appalling traffic congestion went unnoticed. Martin had been talking non-stop throughout the tour, drawing our attention to the impressive buildings we passed, together with the unbelievable prices charged by the expensive hotels.
We’d been told not to arrive at our final destination before 7 o’clock. In fact, we were dropped off back in Camberwell at about ten past seven, ready to walk across to Kennedy’s Fish Shop. The staff were marvellous and duly served us with our delicious fish’n’chips and cups of tea, coping brilliantly with the large numbers. Suitably fed and watered, we walked back across the road to join the coach for the journey home. Once we were out of London, Richard put his foot down and we got back to Coval Lane at about 9:30 pm, after an unusual but memorable day out.
Over the years, the Chelmsford and District National Trust Supporter Group has made many gifts to Hatfield Forest, just 20 miles away from the City centre. One of our most recent gifts was a donation towards the purchase of Selena, a sheepdog at the Forest. Her handler, Ian Pease, is hoping to bring Selena to the Cramphorn Theatre on Wednesday, 6 March 2019, when he, and other members of the staff, will be talking about the Forest.
However, the best way to see her is literally in the field. David Simmonds is hoping to organise a self-drive visit to the Forest before the summer, probably a Thursday in May. The actual date and programme has to be finalised. If you would like to attend or find out more then please contact David Simmonds on tel 01245-250198 or email@example.com by 31 st March.
It was a contract which could only be handled by the most skilled operator in The Organisation.
“This job calls for the utmost skill, expertise, experience, determination and patience” Big Boss had said. “You are the only one in The Organisation I can rely on to bring it to a satisfactory conclusion. You will take the ferry to the island, where your quarry is hiding in the woods.”
He felt very conspicuous as he joined the holiday makers and day trippers waiting for the ferry. A lone man with a large black rucksack, he certainly stood out among the dads burdened with picnic bags and folding chairs, the Mums wheeling baby buggies and shouting after runaway children, and the middle-aged couples exchanging sea-sickness jokes. However, no-one took any notice of him.
In a babble of excited chatter the passengers surged happily ashore at the end of the short ferry trip. Some made for the visitor centre while others went straight to the castle. He alone quietly slipped off in the direction of the woods.
Long experience of this kind of requirement and detailed knowledge of the habits of his quarry enabled him to quickly chose the perfect place in which to await his opportunity for his chance of taking his target by surprise.
In a shorter time than he had expected, a rustling among the leaves and a trembling of the branches told him his quarry was approaching through the trees. For one moment he stood still, clear of the foliage. There was a flash, a startled cry, then he was gone, crashing through the trees, branches bending, leaves shaking. The Organisation’s most skilled operative smiled with satisfaction as he packed up his equipment. Yes, Big Boss would be pleased with him. He’d got the perfect photograph of a red squirrel to fulfil the contract with the wild life magazine.
You’ve no doubt heard the phrase “Use it or lose it” often. It’s applied to a range of issues, from the closure of branch libraries to the Park and Ride buses. In this case, it’s applying to our jigsaw table.
When our dear friend Marjorie Lincoln passed away a few years ago, the sales stall which she faithfully organised meeting after meeting vanished because nobody came forward to continue her work. Clearly, some sort of replacement was needed. So, my jigsaw-addicted wife came up with an idea of a jigsaw loan scheme, whereby she carefully chose a selection of about two dozen jigsaws from the two hundred-odd in our loft and set them out on the tables at each meeting, together with a file in which members could record their selection of something to keep them occupied during the dark winter evenings. A modest hire charge of £1 per jigsaw was made to add to our income from book sales, raffle and plants. After an enthusiastic start the idea cooled considerably and in 2018 the scheme brought in a measly £10. Consequently, I had a long hard look at whether my effort of lugging four large bags – now reduced to two – to each meeting was worth it.
Therefore, I’m sorry to announce that, unless the jigsaw hire rate picks up substantially during the rest of the year, that corner of the Cramphorn Theatre will remain empty – unless, of course, you have other ideas...
Yours in the quest for new ideas or more up-take!