Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Record-breaking in Chelmsford

Thanks to Hannah Salisbury and all at the Essex Record Office for a great tour of their eight miles of archives. Situated in Wharf Road, down by the Dr Feelgood-esque backwaters of the River Chelmer, the ERO has thousands of fascinating Essex documents. 

We pondered old Victorian maps of Brentwood, photos of defunct Essex cinemas, saw King Charles the First's Bible and ancient parchment from 1381 detailing the penalties imposed after the Peasants' Revolt, that started in Brentwood (make your own jokes here). Quite sensibly, the Peasants burned all the manorial records, wiping out any poll tax claims. It's fascinating that Essex Man had an eye for the main chance even then. The ERO's Katharine Schofield  showed me the court records from Abbess Roding detailing a payment of 12d as the expenses of the bailiff and two men sent to Writtle to recover a cow taken during the revolt. Dodgy characters Richard and Joseph Herde had also taken the chance to nick eight pieces of timber, a pair of double harrow with rings and clasps of iron and four cartloads of hay… 

The ERO also has a sound and video archive including Paul Simon playing at a Brentwood folk club and an amazing jingle enticing residents to South Woodham Ferrers. I'll be talking about my book The Joy of Essex as part of the ERO's open day on September 14 — it's also going to be filmed and will go into the eight miles of archives. Posterity beckons… 


  1. This is fascinating. I love Essex. So many questions for you now - like why do they have Charles !'s bible? Do they have pix of the ancient Essex mega mansions that were pulled down in the 1950s? Are there any documents about William Harvey who discovered the circulation of blood - or have they been hived off by a medical collection?

  2. The Bible was given to someone in Essex, I will check who! Try their website for Harvey, it has a very comprehensive catalogue…