Memory Maps: Historical writing about Essex
A small selection of historical texts connected to Essex. All excerpts are from 'Essex Pie', edited by T M Hope (1952).
Brentwood: 'Amazons at Brentwood'
1577. Record of a singular riot that occurred at Burnt-wood, on the 5th of August, 1577, when Thomasina Tyler, Anna Woodall, Margaret Banester, Alice Greatheade, Priscilla Prior, Margaret Bayford, Mary May, Alice Degon, Dorothea Woodall and 21 others, all spinsters of Burntwoode aforesaid, in a place commonly called Burntwood Chapell, and in the steeple of the said chapell, and in the grave-yard of the same chapell, raised an unlawful riot, and dragged forcibly out of the said chapel 'quendam Ricardum Brooke ludimagistrum, and beat him, and then shutting themselves within the same chapel, defended themselves against the servants of the sheriff, with divers arms, - to wit, with five pitchforks, bills, a piked staff, two hot spits, three bows, nine arrows, an axe, a great hammer, two kettles of hot water, and a great whetstone; and so held the said chapel, until at length they were on the same day by the said sheriff and Justices of the Peace; after which the same riotous women rescued themselves from their captors, so as to render it impossible to put them into Her Majesty's gaol: It being furthermore stated that on being required to aid in suppressing the riot, John Myntor of Burntwood, yeoman, refused to obey the order, and that when the said sheriff and magistrates were committing Thomasina Tyler to prison, they were forcibly and with violence hindered by Henry Dalley of Burntwood, Labourer.'
Essex Sessions Rolls, Hist. MSS Coin, loth Report, 1885
Bures St Mary: 'Ghosties and Ghoulies and Four-legged Beasties'
This house, Parsonage Hall, is haunted. You can hear a man and a woman talking together, quietly, and at night, in the angle of the roof between the main Tudor building and its Jacobean wing. A room may have stood in this corner at one time. There is none now. The voices sound kindly, placid, sure of themselves and sure of each other, as those of man and wife should be. I think they must belong to man and wife. Friends would be less constant: lovers, more secretive. He speaks: she makes a comment, demurs, or affirms - you can almost guess the words; if you creep nearer to listen and be sure, their voices go away. Six months later, or a year, perhaps, they come again ...
Since no physical cause that I can bring to mind could produce les voix I accept them quite simply as supernatural. We are visited now and again by some former owner and his wife who wish to satisfy themselves that the house is in good repair, and that we love it as much as they did.
This is a good country. Where else are lanes so winding, nightingales so tame, kingcups so yellow, bluebells so blue? Where else among herdsmen, shepherds, smiths and thatchers are no aitches dropped, purer English spoken? And what other district in the whole of England has been favoured by a visit from a Dragon?
This is not romance. It happened in 1405. John of Trokelowe and Henry of Blandforde have left an account (Chronica Monasterii S. Albani) in monkish Latin which ranks as a first-class piece of reporting. Recently, they say, at the village of Bures near Sudbury a dragon appeared, ' vast in body, with a tufted head, saw-like teeth and a tail immeasurably long.' (from the original latin description: 'vastus corpore, cristato capite, dente serrato, cauda protensa, nimia longitudine.') which did evil by going to and fro among the sheep, killing many. At which the bowmen of Richard de Waldegrave, knight, on whose land the dragon lurked, moved out; but the body of the dragon turned the arrows aside, and they sprang back from its armour as if from stone or iron; and those arrows which fell on the spine of its back glanced off again and sprang away with clangings, as if they had struck plates of bronze. Whereupon the whole countryside was roused. But when the dragon saw that the bowmen were advancing again to the attack it took refuge in the mere and hid among the reeds; nor was it any more seen.
The Dragon of Bures has not lived on locally even as a legend. It could hardly be expected to survive the Industrial Revolution, the Education Acts, and the growing-up of 16 or 17 generations of people. Folk-songs, yes: these still linger, and so do tales as artless as the folk-songs. There is one of an old lady who filled the teapot after breakfast, put it on the hob to simmer, added at noon an egg and an onion, drank the lot for supper and lived to be ninety. There are others of a witch who was renowned through three parishes. And there is a grand account of a ghost-laying. 'Maurie' Cardy gave it to me. He got it from his father. It is possible the event took place as recently as 1800-30.
A horseman haunted the road from Bures to Lamarsh Hill by night, terrifying all he met. For 'that shone in the dark.' The parson went out to deal with him, alone, but 'he couldn't read fast enough and the ghost was that strong that jumped on his back and knocked him over.' The parsons of the three parishes - Bures St. Mary, Mount Bures and Wormingford - then came with their clerks wardens and choirs, bringing a candle, which they lit. They 'read him down into it' - that is the phrase - and told him 'he hadn't got to come out till the candle had burnt out.' (That meant to the very end.) While the candle was still alight they put it into a bottle: corked up the bottle: buried it under an elder-stub, and burnt the elder-stub.
'And did that settle him, Maurie?'
'That deed, sir, that deed! They never see heem no more.'
T Wood, True Thomas, 1936
Chelmsford: 'A Lusty Chelmsford Maiden'
At Chelmsford, a Mayde not passing foureteene yeares of age, dwelling with one Sudley, my kind friend, made request to her Master and Dame that she might daunce the Morrice with me in a great large roome. They being intreated, I was soone wonne to fit her with bels; beside she would have the olde fashion, with napking on her armes; and to our iumps we fell. A whole houre she held out; but then being ready to lye downe I left her off; but this much to her praise, I would have challenged the strongest man in Chelmsford, and amongst many I thinke few would have done so much.
Kemps nine daies wonder, Performed in a daunce from London to Norwich, 1600 Camden Society, 1840
Colchester: 'The Early Life of the Famous Moll Flanders'
My mother was convicted of felony for a certain petty theft scarce worth naming, viz. having an opportunity of borrowing three pieces of fine holland of a certain draper in Cheapside. The circumstances are too long to repeat, and I have heard them related so many ways, that I can scarce be certain which is the right account.
However it was, this they all agree in, that my mother pleaded her belly, and being found quick with child, she was respited for about seven months; in which time having brought me into the world, and being about again, she was called down, as they term it, to her former judgment, but obtained the favour of being transported to the plantations, and left me about half a year old and in bad hands, you may be sure.
This is too near the first hours of my life for me to relate anything of myself but by hearsay; nor can I give the least account how I was kept alive, other than that, as I have been told some relation of my mother's took me away for a while as a nurse, but at whose expense, or by whose direction, I know nothing of it at all.
The first account that I can recollect, or could ever learn of myself, was that I had wandered among a crew of those people they call gypsies, or Egyptians; but I believe it was but a very little while that I had been among them, nor can I tell how I came among them, or how I got from them.
It was at Colchester, in Essex, that those people left me, and as my case came to be known, and that I was too young to do any work, being not above three years old, compassion moved the magistrates of the town to order some care to be taken of me, and I became one of their own as much as if I had been born in the place.
In the provision they made for me, it was my good hap to be put to nurse, as they call it, to a woman who was indeed poor but had been in better circumstance, and who had a little school, which she kept to teach children to read and work; and having, as I have said, lived before in good fashion, she bred up the children she took with a great deal of art, as well with a great deal of care.
I was continued here till I was eight years old, when I was terrified with news that the magistrates (as I think they called them) had ordered that I should go to service. I was able to do but very little service where-ever I was to go, except it was to run of errands and be a drudge to some cook-maid, and this they told me often, which put me into a great fright; for I had a thorough aversion to going to service, as they call it (that is to be a servant), though I was so young; and I told my nurse, as we called her, that I believed I could get my living without going to service, if she pleased to let me; for she had taught me to work with my needle, and spin worsted, which is the chief trade of that city.
I talked to her almost every day of working hard; and, in short, I did nothing but work and cry all day, which grieved the good, kind woman so much, that at last she began to be concerned for me, for she loved me very well.
One day after this, as she came into the room where all we poor children were at work, she sat down just over against me. I was doing something she had set me to; as I remember, it was marking some shirts which she had taken to make, and after a while she began to talk to me. 'Thou foolish child,' says she, 'thou art always crying' (for I was crying then); 'prithee, what dolt cry for?' 'Because they will take me away,' says I, 'and put me to service, and I can't work housework, and if I can't do it they will beat me, and the maids will beat me to make me do great work, and I am but a little girl and I can't do it'; and then I cried again till I could not speak any more to her.
This moved my good motherly nurse, so that she from that time resolved I should not go to service yet; so she bid me not cry, and she would speak to Mr Mayor, and I should not go to service till I bigger.
Well, this did not satisfy me, for to think of going to service was such a frightful thing to me, that if she had assured me I should not have gone till I was 20 years old, it would have been the same to me; I should have cried, I believe, all the time, with the very apprehension of it being to be so at last.
When she saw that I was not pacified yet, she began to be angry with me. 'And what would you have?' says she; 'dont I tell you that you shall not go to service till you are bigger?' 'Ay,' says I, 'but then I must go at last.' 'Why, what?' said she; 'is the girl mad? What would you be - a gentlewoman?' 'Yes,' says I, and cried heartily till I roared out again.
This set the old gentlewoman a-laughing at me, as you may be sure it would. 'Well, madam, forsooth,' says she, gibing at me, 'you would be a gentlewoman; and pray how will you come to be a gentlewoman? What! will you do it by your fingers' ends?'
'Yes,' says I again, very innocently.
'Why, what can you earn?' says she; 'what can you get at your work?'
'Threepence,' said I, 'when I spin, and fourpence when I work plain work.'
'Alas! poor gentlewoman,' said she again, laughing, 'what will that do for thee?'
'It will keep me,' says I, 'if you will let me live with you.' And this I said in such a poor petitioning tone, that it made the poor woman's heart yearn to me, as she told me afterwards.
'But,' says she, 'that will not keep you and buy you clothes too; and who must buy the little gentlewoman clothes?' says she, and smiled all the while at me.
'I will work harder, then,' says I, 'and you shall have it all.'
'Poor child ! it won't keep you,' says she; 'it will hardly keep you in victuals.'
'Then I will have no victuals,' says I, again very innocently; 'let me but live with you.'
'Why, can you live without victuals,' says she.
'Yes,' again says I, very much like a child, you may be sure, and still cried heartily.
I had no policy in all this; you may easily see it was all nature; but it was joined with so much innocence and so much passion that, in short, it set the good motherly creature a-weeping too, and she cried at last as fast as I did, and then took me and led me out of the teaching-room. 'Come,' says she, 'you shan't go to service; you shall live with me'; and this pacified me for the present.
D Defoe: 'The History and Misfortunes of the Famous Moll Flanders', written in the year 1683
[The Frenchman, Robert-Houdin was the Maskelyne and Devant of his day. He came to England in 1849 and, after a season in London, which included two performances before Queen Victoria and the Prince Consort, he went on a provincial tour which included a visit to Colchester.]
It is the custom at Colchester that when a body goes to the theatre he fills his pocket with nuts. These are cracked and eaten during the performance as a species of refreshment. Men and women both suffer from this cracking mania, so that a rolling fire is kept up through the house, often powerful enough to drown the voice.
Nothing affected my nerves so much as this incessant cracking; my first performance suffered from it, and despite my efforts to master myself, I went through the whole performance in a state of irritation. I consented, however, to perform a second time, but the manager could not induce me to promise a third. Although he assured me that his actors had grown quite accustomed to this strange music, and that even a minor actor might often be seen on the stage calmly cracking a nut while awaiting the reply, I could not stand it any longer, and left the town.
Most assuredly, the theatres in the smaller English towns are not equal to those in the cities.
Robert-Houdin: 'Memoirs', 1859
Debden: 'May-Day Carol sung by the children of Debden in 1857'
I been a-rambling all this night,
And some time of this day;
And now returning back again
I brought you garland gay.
A garland gay I have brought you here,
And at your door I stand,
'Tis nothing but a sprout, but 'tis well budded out,
The work of Our Lord's hand.
So dear, so dear, as Christ loved us,
And for our sins was slain,
Christ bids us turn from wickedness,
And turn to the Lord again.
Why don't you do as we have done,
The very first day of May,
And from my parents I have come,
And would no longer stay.
Broadwood and Fuller Maitland: 'English County Songs', 1893
Halstead: 'The Bay Loom' and 'Lord Rosebery on the conditions of life in Halstead'
The Bay Loom
[This quotation is part of a poem which was recited at the opening of the Halstead Literary and Mechanics' Institute in 1858, comparing the old Bay and Say Trade with work in Courtauld's Silk Mills.]
Full well I remember Tom Stammer's Bay Loom,
How it shook with its thumps the four walls of the room;
How we followed old Tom as he walked up the Lane,
And rode on the log while he 'beamed on his chain';
A huge oaken log that to one end was tied,
While on it some half-dozen urchins would ride;
Thus increasing its weight we kept tight every thread,
And the warp round the beam was most evenly laid.
But scenes like this were not destined to last,
And Tom and his Loom became 'things of the past.'
The days of the Bay Loom still bring to the mind,
Scenes of vice, filth, and ignorance closely combined;
When the head of the house was too often a sot,
Who sacrificed all to his pipe and his pot;
His children in rags, without stocking or shoe,
And dirty alike from the top to the toe;
Their heads like a furze-bush, with thick matted hair,
That shewed horn or bone had but seldom been there;
Where 'Scotch greys' marched on without fear or control,
And took up 'headquarters' secure at the poll;
While 'Sepoys' at night, it was painful to see,
Had attacked the 'breast-works' of the light infantry.
To these nightly marauders, they 'quarter' did give,
And practised the motto of 'Live and Let Live.'
Then hail! to the day when the huge old Bay Loom
Was destined, in turn, for the silk to make room,
For the mill and the warehouse have brought to the cot,
Cleanly habits of thrift, which before they had not.
W J Evans: 'Old and New Halstead', 1886
Lord Rosebery on the conditions of life in Halstead, 1795
Toward the end of 1795 Pitt went down to stay with a friend in Essex and, after talking one evening of the good fortune which an industrious and virtuous labourer could enjoy in Britain, was taken by his host to view the dwellings of the poor in the town of Halstead. 'The [Prime] Minister' Lord Rosebery has written, 'surveyed it in silent wonder, and declared he had no conception that any part of England could present such a spectacle of misery.'
A Bryant's 'Years of Endurance', quoting from Lord Rosebery's 'Pitt'.
Hemstead: 'William Harvey'
He lies buried in a vault at Hempsted in Essex, which his brother Eliab Harvey built; he is lapt in lead, and on his breast in great letters
Dr William Harvey
I was at his funerall, and helpt to carry him into the vault. I remember that Dr Alsop sayd then that he was 80, wanting one; and that he was the eldest of 9 brethren.
He was alwayes very contemplative, and the first that I heare of that was curious in anatomie in England. He had made dissections of frogges, toades, and a number of other animals, and had curious observations on them, which papers, together with his goods, in his lodgings at Whitehall, were plundered at the beginning of the Rebellion, he being for the king, and with him at Oxon; but he often sayd that of all the losses he sustained, no greife was so crucifying to him as the losse of these papers, which for love or money he could never retrive or obtaine. When Charles I by reason of the tumults left London, he attended him, and was at the fight of Edge-hill with him; and during the fight, the Prince and duke of Yorke were committed to his care: he told me that he withdrew with them under a hedge, and tooke out of his pockett a booke and read; but he had not read very long before a bullet of a great gun grazed on the ground neare him, which made him move his station.
After Oxford was surrendred, which was 24 July 1646, he came to London, and lived with his brother Eliab a rich merchant, who bought, about 1654, Cockaine-house, a noble house, where the Doctor was wont to contemplate on the leads of the house, and had his several stations, in regard of the sun, or wind.
He did delight to be in the darke, and told me he could then best contemplate. He had a house heretofore at Combe in Surrey, a good aire and prospect, where he had caves made in the earth, in which in summer time he delighted to meditate.
For about 20 yeares before he dyed he took no manner of care about his worldly concernes, but his brother Eliab, who was a very wise and prudent menager, ordered all not only faithfully, but better then he could have donne himselfe.
He was, as all the rest of the brothers, very cholerique ; and in his young days wore a dagger (as the fashion then was, nay I remember my old schoolemaster, old Mr Latimer, at 70, wore a dudgeon, with a knife, and bodkin, as also my old grandfather, which I suppose was the common fashion in their young dayes), but this Dr. would be too apt to draw-out his dagger upon every slight occasion.
He was not tall; but of the lowest stature, round faced, olivaster complexion; little eie, round, very black, full of spirit; his haire was black as a raven, but quite white 20 yeares before he dyed.
I first saw him at Oxford, 1642, after Edgehill fight, but was then too young to be acquainted with so great a Doctor. I remember he came several times to our Coll. [Trinity] to George Bathurst, B.D., who had a hen to hatch egges in his chamber, which they dayly opened to discerne the progress and way of generation.
I have heard him say, that after his booke of the Circulation of the Blood came-out, that he fell mightily in his practize, and that it was believed by the vulgar that he was crack-brained.
He was much and often troubled with the gowte, and his way of cure was thus, he would then sitt with his legges bare, if it were frost, on the leads of Cockaine house, putt them into a payle of water, till he was almost dead with cold, then betake himselfe to his stove, and so 'twas gonne.
J Aubrey: 'Brief Lives'
Little Dunmow: 'Of the Beauteous Lady Matilda and her Murder by Bad King John'
That the Family of Fitz-Walters hath of long Time been of honourable Reputation and Account, need not many Proofs.
When Robert Fitz-Walter, Lord of Woodham, in Essex, came to Man's Estate, he betook himself to Marriage, and by his Wife he had one only Daughter, whom he loved most intirely, and caused her to be brought up in Virtue and Learning, wherein she prospered, to the great Contentment and Joy of her Father, and Comfort of her Mother, who, notwithstanding, shortly after Died, and left her sole Governess of her Father's House, which was great.
All which she governed, and under her Father ruled, with such discreet and modest Behaviour, as was of all People wondered at, in Respect of her tender Age and Youth. Besides, she was of such excellent and surpassing Beauty, as allured the Eyes of all Sorts of People to gaze and wonder at, Nature having wrought in her Mind and Example of all Womanhood, and in her Body and Countenance, a Pattern and Model of all Perfection; which, being known at the Court, she was commanded to attend the Court.
Being at Court, and daily Attendant on the Queen, the King himself (I mean King John) still respecting and Gazing at her exquisite Carriage, and the Perfection of her Beauty, fell so far from himself, and that which became his Person and Estate, that he bent all his Endeavours to solicit her of Love, which she, as fully resolute, most constantly denied. The repulsed King left not so his unlawful Suit, for all her Denial, but practised to procure her Father, to be a Means for his unlawful and ungodly Request:
Nature not brooking the Father to become a Pandor to his Child, the poor Virgin, not otherwise able to avoid the importunate suit of this lascivious King, besought her Father, that she might be professed a Nun or Votary at Dunmow: Whereunto her Father consented, trusting that her Absence would allay and asswage his Lust, and cause him to leave his unhallowed Suit But it prevailed not; but, as a Lion bereft of his Prey, grew more enraged than before; appointing a Messenger, which he procured and hired of Purpose, whose Errand was, either to persuade her to consent to the King's Request, or by Poison to take away her Life.
In the End, when nothing would persuade her, he, accordingly to his Direction, poisoned her. I have read, that it was secretly done with a poached Egg, the Salt being poisoned which was for her Sauce: Others say, with a Cup of Poison, which he enforced her to drink; But, howsoever, great Mischief befel after this lamentable Tragedy, which well near had overthrown the Kingdom and Country. This, was about the Year of our Lord 1213.
William Valens: 'Three Ancient and Curious Histories', 1743
Manningtree: 'Witches' Imps'
In March 1644 [Matthew Hopkins, witch-finder] had some seven or eight of that horrible sect of Witches living in the towne where he lived, a Towne in Essex called Manningtree, with divers adjacent Witches of other towns, who every six weeks in the night (being always on the Friday night) had their meeting close by his house, and had their severall solemne sacrifices there offered to the Devill, one of which this discoverer heard speaking to her Imps one night. The first she called was
- Holt, who came in like a white kitling.
- Jamara, who came in like a fat Spaniel without any leggs at all, she said she kept him fat, for she clapt her hand on her belly, and said he suckt good blood from her body.
- Vinegar Tom, who was like a long-legg'd Greyhound, with a head like an Oxe, with a long taile and broad eyes, who when the discoverer spoke to, and bade him goe to the place provided for him and his Angels, immediately transformed himself into the shape of a child of foure yeeres old without a head, and gave halfe a dozen turnes about the house, and vanished at the doore.
- Sack and Sugar, like a black Rabbet.Newes, like a Polecat. All these vanished away in a little time. Immediately after this Witch confessed several other Witches, from whom she had her Imps, and named divers women, the number of their Marks, and Imps, and Imps names, as Elemauzer, Pyewacket, Peckin the Crown, Grizzel Greedigut, etc., which no mortall could invent.
The examination of Johan Cooper, widow, Taken before the said Justices, May 9, 1645. Died in the Gaole.
This Examinant saith, that she hath been a witch about twenty years, and hath three Familiars, two like Mouses, and the third like a Frog: The names of the two like Mouses, are Jack, and the other Prickeare, and the name of the third like Frog is Frog: And this Examinant saith that shee did send her said Imp Frog, to destroy the wife of one George Parby of Much-Holland, which did kill her within three dayes after.
A Relation of the Examination, and Confessions of the late Witches, 1645
M Hopkins:' Discovery of the Witches', 1647
Springfield: 'Disaffection in 1592'
The Examination, before Sir Edward Huddleston knt, of William Clarke of Holborn, London, touching contumelious words alleged to have been spoken to him by a sailor, on the highway between Chelmsforde and Witham, about Spring-field, which sailor, on being asked whether he had come over with the Lord Thomas Howard answered for himself and two other sailors accompanying him, that 'they cam over with an honester man then Lorde Thomas Howarde' adding 'Hange him villeine, for he hath cast awaie a number of men better then himsealf.'
[The sailor was apparently Francis Foorde, of Ipswich. It will be remembered that Lord Thomas Howard in 1591 sailed away from Flores with five ships of war, leaving Sir Richard Grenville in the Revenge to face the Spanish fleet alone.]
Essex County Session Rolls, Hist. MSS. Corn., loth Report
Thaxted: 'The Whitsuntide Singers'
1914 Gustav Holst left London and came to live at Thaxted, in a 300-year-old cottage on the top of a hill. The valley was planted with young willow trees, and a high wind would turn them to silver. And in the distance the spire of Thaxted Church stood up against the sky.
Thaxted itself was beautiful, and the church was the crowning glory of the place. It was like a cathedral. And inside, instead of being dark and cluttered up, it was spacious and incredibly light.
Standing in those empty aisles, and seeing the shafts of sunlight slanting through the pillars, Holst dreamed of a festival of music that might happen there one day. He would bring down his pupils, past and present, from Morley College and St. Paul's Girls' School, and they would do 'Sleepers Wake' and 'Soul, Array Thyself,' and Palestrina and Vittoria and Purcell.
The dream was realised during the Whitsun week-end of 1916, and when it was over he described it in a letter to his friend, W. G. Whittaker:
'I would have written before, but I was so tied up with our musical festival (or rather feast) at Thaxted last week.
'It was a feast - an orgy. Four whole days of perpetual singing and playing, either properly arranged in the church or impromtu in various houses or still more impromptu in ploughed fields during thunderstorms, or in the train going home.
'In the intervals between the services people drifted into the church and sang motets or played violin or 'cello. And others caught bad colds through going long walks in the pouring rain singing madrigals and folk songs and rounds the whole time.'
He also wrote:
'I realise now why the bible insists on heaven being a place (I should call it a condition) where people sing and go on singing.
'We kept it up at Thaxted about fourteen hours a day. The reason we didn't do more is that we were not capable mentally or physically of realising heaven any further.
'Still, as far as it went it was heaven. Just as the average amateur's way of using music as a sedative or a stimulant is purgatory, and the professional's way of using music as a topic of conversation or as a means of getting money is hell.
'Music, being identical with heaven, isn't a thing of momentary thrills, or even hourly ones. It is a condition of eternity.'
1. HOLST : Gustav Holst, 1938
Writtle: 'The Birth of Broadcasting. 'Two Emma Tock, Writtle Calling!''
When the war ended at last I found myself; in common with many other ex-officers, undecided what to do. Opportunity seemed infinite, it was the 'dawn of a new era,' our land was being made 'fit for heroes to live in.' It was clear to me, however, that I was not a hero and, pending the dawn, I had better set about getting a job.
C E Prince, now my immediate boss at the RAF Wireless Experimental Establishment, wanted me to join with him in an Aircraft Section of the Marconi Company, which he and HBT Childs hoped to be allowed to form. I joined the Marconi Company.
A few months later it was decided to move the technical section of the Aircraft Department from London to somewhere near Chelmsford. Prince decided he disliked a clay soil, so I was put in charge of the technical development. Our laboratory in Essex consisted of an army hut in a field, near the village of Writtle...
We received a letter from head office saying that the amateurs, in the form of the Radio Society of Great Britain, wanted the Marconi Company to design, install and maintain a station on their behalf and that we had better do the job at Writtle. Naturally we were not to interrupt our normal work and, in any case, because the amateurs also had 'normal work' it was no good transmitting before they got back to their homes. It was decided therefore to broadcast from eight to eight-thirty in the evening once a week. We received a little extra pay to do a little extra work and set about, rather lightheartedly, putting together some valves, condensers, and chokes 'on a board' to produce the required low power transmitter. This was to be the first broadcasting station in Great Britain to do regular and advertised transmissions. But we only thought of it as another job of work for which we would be blamed if it went wrong and hardly noticed if it went right. But our critics, the wireless amateurs, were numerous and informed. They were liable to be rude if we were not efficient.
Our programmes were, at first, very formal. They were made up entirely of gramophone records. A mechanical gramophone played the music into the air and one of the staff held an ordinary microphone, such as one talks into when telephoning, in front of the trumpet.
(Later) began the Writtle programmes, remarkable for their gaiety and irresponsibility.
We signed off with a theme song. I sang it in a high tenor voice to the tune of Tosti's 'Goodbye' with an accompaniment vamped on a piano.
Dearest, the concert's ended, sad wails the heterodyne.
You must soon switch off your valves, I must soon switch
Write back and say you have heard me, your 'hook up'
and where and how,
Quick! for the engine's failing, good-bye, you old low-
P P Eckersley: 'The Power behind the Microphone', 1941
Speech by Elizabeth I to the troops at Tilbury1
My loving people,
We have been persuaded by some that are careful of our safety, to take heed how we commit our selves to armed multitudes, for fear of treachery; but I assure you I do not desire to live to distrust my faithful and loving people. Let tyrants fear, I have always so behaved myself that, under God, I have placed my chiefest strength and safeguard in the loyal hearts and good-will of my subjects; and therefore I am come amongst you, as you see, at this time, not for my recreation and disport, but being resolved, in the midst and heat of the battle, to live and die amongst you all; to lay down for my God, and for my kingdom, and my people, my honour and my blood, even in the dust. I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too, and think foul scorn that Parma or Spain, or any prince of Europe, should dare to invade the borders of my realm; to which rather than any dishonour shall grow by me, I myself will take up arms, I myself will be your general, judge, and rewarder of every one of your virtues in the field. I know already, for your forwardness you have deserved rewards and crowns; and We do assure you in the word of a prince, they shall be duly paid you. In the mean time, my lieutenant general2 shall be in my stead, than whom never prince commanded a more noble or worthy subject; not doubting but by your obedience to my general, by your concord in the camp, and your valour in the field, we shall shortly have a famous victory over those enemies of my God, of my kingdom, and of my people.
The Norton Anthology of English Literature. 6th Edition. Vol 1, New York: W W Norton & Company, 1993. ISBN 0393962873
1. Delivered by Elizabeth to the land forces assembled at Tilbury (Essex) to repel the anticipated invasion of the Spanish Armada.
2. Robert Dudley, earl of Leicester; he was the queen's favorite, once rumored to be her lover.
A poem written by Lady Damaris Cudworth Masham to John Locke in 1683
In 1682 John Locke (1632-1704) the famous philosopher met Damaris Cudworth, the daughter of Ralph Cudworth the Cambridge Platonist. Born in l658, she was 26 years younger than Locke. They began a lengthy correspondence; it continued until Locke took up residence with Damaris and her husband, Sir Francis Masham at Oates, High Laver, Essex in the 1690s.
Damaris has been called ‘the first bluestocking’, and the letters she and Locke wrote reveal a duality of purpose. Overlaid by the linguistic complexities of coded reference and allusion, they provide a convenient vehicle whereby Locke and Damaris could discover, assess and analyse their co-respondent’s opinions on key contemporary issues such as enthusiasm, natural law, faith and belief, original sin and redemption. But at the same time, their correspondence allowed them to resolve covertly the tensions and contradictions in their personal relationship.
Charles Taylor, in Sources of the Self (1989) has termed Locke’s attempt to strip every shred of emotion and feeling from his mind: the ‘punctual self.’ Taylor’s model of radical disengagement is a refinement of Descartes’ disengagement of self as exemplified by his famous ‘cogito ergo sum.’ In her poem Damaris reveals how she tried to soften his heart:
Say wherefore is’t that damon flyes,
From the Weake Charms of Cloras Eyes
Weak Charms they surely needs must bee,
Which till this Houre he could not see,
Nor is she now more Faire, then when
Their first acquaintance they began,
When the Gay shepherd Laugh’d at love,
Swore it no Gen’rous Heart could move;
Disease of Fools, fond Lunacie,
To Clora’s face oft would Cry,
On mee your Friendship but bestow,
(Friendship, the onely Good below)
Faire shepherdess Ile ask no more
Since more to give, exceeds your Pow’r.
Damon the Mightie Gift, then gain’d
With Witt exalted now maintain’d
No Happy Lovers greatest Bliss
More than a shadow was to his,
Which all refin’d, found no alloy
And like to Fate, nought could destroy.
Long did the Happy Youth thus live
Could not ask, nor could shee give,,
Till wandering the other Day
Lo, on the Ground the Shepherd lay.
The poem hinges on 'the weak charms of Clora’s eyes.' It is a poignant reference to her own poor eyesight, from which she suffered early in her life, to accuse Locke of his own blindness in not registering her love for him. But Love, the 'mightie Gift' of the gods was unable to breach Locke’s unalloyed reason. The strength of the impregnable fortress of reason is heightened by the scientific metaphor: reason is 'all refin’d', with no alloy to temper and soften it.
Damaris has chosen to site her poem in the world of pastoral romance. Locke and she have become Philoclea and Philander, characters from Sir Philip Sidney’s Arcadia in a bucolic Arcadian landscape distanced from the gossip of rural Cambridge and the London salons. In the initial correspondence we discover they had both read popular romances such as the Arcadia. They had also read the novels of Madeleine de Scudéry , who had devised the Carte de Tendre (the Map of Tenderness), and they had reached a seminal marker in their own allegorical Map. Their relationship parallelled Scudéry’s Map of Tenderness in that it had failed to proceed beyond the halt at Friendship and Sincerity.
Damaris knew and understood the tenets of neoplatonism and would have been familiar with Plato’s Symposium. Through the use of a pseudonym, Damaris is removing any gendered power relations and draws the reader into the covert symbolism of Damon and Clora. Damon represents love, but according to Vincent Brümmer’s analysis of models of love in The Model of Love, 1993, Damon 'subsists in you not as an actuality, a finished product but as a possibility, as a task to be realized.' (p116) If Brümmer is right, then Damaris must be suggesting that Locke is merely an apprentice in love and has as yet to achieve his full potential. He is effectively frightened to attempt the perilous path from Sincerity to Tenderness of Heart. However, is Damaris being disingenuous or double-edged? Plato’s definition of Love is 'necessarily one who engages in the search for wisdom.' Is Damaris signifying physical love or the philosopher’s search for wisdom? And of course the first three letters of Damon coincide with Damaris’ own name.
Where words fail to reproduce an exact meaning she imbues them with connotations. 'Weak charms,' become both physical and spiritual inability to see, 'Gay shepherd,' is the very antithesis of the mood of the poem which is sad and reflective, the site for regret and nostalgia, while the oxymoronic 'fond lunacy' bespeaks the climax of their long and heated debate on enthusiasm. Locke saw love in the same light as enthusiasm, the domain of fanatics and madmen. Damaris saw it as a positive and inspirational force for the good.
Too late Damon was rudely disabused of his tardy and questioning 'disdain' for 'Passions rude Apostacie' and it is Clora’s turn to refuse a belated but proffered love:
Mistaken Damon, she Reply’d
Nor did herself no longer hide,
Conquests so Hardly Gain’d do show
Wee nothing to the Conquer’d owe,
Nor can I challenge any part
In captivating thy rough Heart,
Since I am still the same as when
My Poweres, and loves, you did disdaine,
Just Destinie thy Love does Cause,
Submitting thee to Humane Laws,
Who Proudly would’st exempted be
Through Ignorance, or Vanitie
Locke’s public persona which upheld reason in the face of disorderly passion finally fell victim to those very emotions he sought to suppress under the cloak of friendship. His sudden change of heart had come too late to convince Damaris that he was capable of deep passion. Whilst he has proved a staunch friend and philosophical soul mate he lacks the spontaneous emotion of an unfettered heart the very epitome of Charles Taylor’s ‘punctual self.’ Distanced by pastoral imagery the language is nevertheless stern and uncompromising, there is no mistaking the prominence of the first person and personal pronoun: 'I challenge,' 'I am still the same' and 'My powers.' Damaris has effectively stolen both the poetic initiative and the power to sanction love. More importantly she has challenged the notion that the man/husband holds the final sanction.
In l685, three years after she met John Locke, Damaris married the widower Sir Francis Masham. The wedding ceremony possibly took place at Matching Green, Essex, in the ancient church and its unique Wedding Feast Hall. On 27 July 2000 I visited Matching Green, the former home of Sir Francis’ mother, and was fortunate to be present on the very day when the tomb of Lady Masham’s son, Francis Cudworth, was discovered in the floor at the back of the church by workmen refurbishing the church. The inscription cited: ‘Here lyeth the body of Francis Cudworth Masham Esq, only Son of Francis Masham Bart by Damaris His Second Wife. He Departed this Life the 16th Day of May in the 45th Year of his Age and in the Year of Our Lord 1731.’
I felt drawn to revisit Matching Green early in 2001. Compared with the previous occasion when the tiny hamlet had been busy with the activity of workmen the place was now deserted. It was silent but at the same time it seemed strangely alive with the ghosts of the past.
The ancient bridal feast room, almost white, almost virginal, almost sepulchral except for the scarlet post box clamped rudely to the side wall, loomed out of the early morning swirling mist. The watery winter sun gently warmed and evaporated the early morning cobweb veil of nature’s foetal caul to bathe the scene in a faint but glowing tracery of etherial light. The large oak obligingly silhouetted its intricate pattern of grey entangled branches in criss-cross configurations and networks over the walls and upper casement windows glorying in a maze of geometrical shapes and contorted designs which eventually merged with the unyielding heavy oak doors and the rough hewn grass of the greensward below.
The feast hall, church and manor house dominated the rural space with majestic splendour; reassuring custodians of this peaceful oasis of calm and tranquillity unmarked by the ravages of both property and urban development along the so-called corridors of civilization, subject only to the passage of time and the changing seasons. But worryingly no longer as distant as in the days when Harlow was merely a staging post and watering hole between London and the North. The infrastructure of communications networks linking rapidly expanding villages and hamlets to bureaucratic centres of control is rapacious and insatiable in its greed to map and colonise ever more new territory.
The newly born light bathed the scene with fingers of probing luminescence which seemed to dispel the shroud like phantom mists of time and early winter suddenly became high summer ... In the distance echoed the muted sounds of merry voices, laughing and clapping in joyous throng as they danced along the track to the church. Dressed in their simple rustic finery and carrying garlands of flowers, men, women, boys and girls, tiny infants cradled in comforting arms, they jostled and chattered as they entered the porch of the church adjacent to the feast room.
As the last of the figures entered the cool shade of the church the bridal group emerged from the manor house across the way. Damaris the bride could be seen talking nervously to her father Ralph as she agitatedly cast an occasional glance up at the furthermost point of the track as it swept away from the church to eventually breast the horizon. Her sister, Lady Abney, busily rearranged the skirts of the dove grey wedding gown and fidgeted among the folds of the over mantel with its ornate flowery design etched in pearl. The bride’s dark hair was adorned in a simple circlet of country flowers which framed her solemn but handsome face. It had been a sudden and hasty wedding with little time for the elaborate wedding preparations usually accorded to such an important society wedding. The bridegroom was Member of Parliament for Harwich and was a popular and well connected figure in London society salons. But there had been no time for the commissioning of London costumiers, the selection of fine muslins and tarlatans and endless sittings. Instead the wedding apparel owed its creation to the artistry and innovative fingers of the resourceful local needlewomen who were thrilled and proud to be entrusted with such unaccustomed needlework from the manor house.
Damaris clutched her prayer book in her hand and was both comforted and distressed by the rustle of paper marking the pages of the marriage service. She knew the contents of the letter by heart. It was the last letter Locke had written to her from exile in Freezeland. Yet again he had destroyed hope with his talk of friendship. If he did indeed blame her for the disruption in their friendship why would he talk of Labadian sects and his delight to see them there one day. But she had since discovered that such sects were merely an enticement for libertines. How cruel he was to make such sport out of her incredulity. Flirtatiously she had tried to force him into a direct invitation for her to visit Holland if only to sample the local cuisine, 'what possible reason could she have for such a visit without having any design at present to become a Housekeeper any more than a Labadie.' But inevitably his replies merely fuelled her frustration and anger at his constant prevarications, which led to quarrels and arguments instead of declarations of love. She had signed herself once again resignedly, 'Your Humble servant Philoclea.'
She remembered the letter when she had declared her stoic faith in order to withstand the constant disappointments. Perhaps Freezeland would indeed be preferable with the inmates’ sole desire to please themselves. As Cowley advised: 'Joyner, Portion, Gold,Estate,/Houses, Householdstuff, and Land,/ (the low conveniences of Fate)/ Are Greek they do not understand.' In all Locke’s letters she looked for some signs of intimacy, but inevitably he seemed more concerned with the instruction of her mind and ensuring she had access to the latest books on mathematics and drawing. 'I was in hopes that before this I should have had an Answeare from you to my last letter, and have received some incouragement to come into Holland. But I find you are not in such haste to see your Governess (whatever you would have her believe) as she would be did it Depend on Her.') But it didn’t depend on her she ruefully reflected as she darted another glance along the track.
Suddenly at that moment a lone horseman accompanying a late carriage appeared in the distance but the dusty haze was soon revealed to be one of the Masham relations arriving late for the service. They alighted in haste and were soon swallowed up by the heavy open porch door which would shortly witness the advance of Miss Cudworth to return later as Lady Masham wife to Sir Francis Masham. She could picture her future husband standing calm and resolute at the altar with little heed or knowledge as to his bride’s perturbed state of mind.
Her father sensed his daughter’s discomposure which he believed was merely wedding nerves and sought to distract her with soothing words and comforting pats on the hand now gently encased in his own. He wasn’t to know that her mind was racing in time with the poem that she had written to Locke after she had rejected his very first proposal to her. 'Say wherefore is’t that Damon flys,/From the weak charmes of Clora’s eyes?' He had written back with passionate verses to proclaim his undying love. His verses spoke of long drawn out battles and brave conquerors to exemplify how powerful her love must have been to conquer his strong heart. 'Love without his bow and dart/ Like Friendship stole into my heart./ Did Conqueror e’re a place disown/ Because unstorm’d he tooke the towne?/ Tell me Clora what will please/ A victory that comes with ease?' Was she too hasty, too arrogant, too impetuous, was it now too late?
She glanced once more up the lane as she gathered the skirts of her gown, tightened the grip on her father’s arm and began the slow progress to the church as it stood waiting bathed in the warm sunshine. She could already hear the sound of fiddles tuning up in the feast room as village women carried out plates of festive fare and laid them on the trestle tables on the greensward beneath the branches of the oak tree.
At last was that lone speck of dust in the distance the messenger she had hoped and prayed for. In reply Lady Abney gently propelled her sister forward as the guests inside the church patiently waited and the organist silently played waiting for the triumphal appearance of the bridal party.
Lady Abney stumbled slightly and her posy shifted slightly in her hand as she lifted the bridal gown over the slight step into the church. She turned back to retrieve one of the delicate blooms that had fallen from her nosegay of pink roses and was surprised to see the post boy jump from his horse and run towards the manor house. Last minute messages of congratulation, she reflected, as she turned to her bridal duties. …
When the bridal pair had completed their vows, a soft footfall was heard at the back of the church. As Damaris and Sir Francis processed slowly up the aisle bedecked in sweet scented dog roses and the asphodel Damaris had requested in memory of Attic nights and dreams of Elysian fields, the messenger stepped respectfully forward and handed a letter to Sir Francis. The latter noted the addressee and with a gentle smile handed it to his new wife. She tucked it into her prayer book as if it was of little consequence and they joined the happy throng making their way towards the Bridal Feast Room where the fiddlers were already in full swing.
The receding figures, blurred with the summer haze, spun in the heat of the afternoon and vanished, returned once more to the world of spirits and immortality. Only the echoes of their gaiety remained poignant reminders of what might have been.
Two months later in August 1685 Damaris wrote what must have been one of the saddest letters she had ever written to John Locke:
'You cannot more Condemne me then I am vex’d at myself for not Having writ to You all this While and yet I have really ever since I receiv’d yours Had so little the Command of my owne Time that it has beene next to impossible for me to do otherwise. Do not therefore I Beg of you think me Alter’d Although it be true that there is no longer any Mademoiselle C: in the world that I know of , Nor would your letter have found any had it come but one Half Houre later then it did, it being in the very Church that she received it, And almost at the very same moment that she was going to quitt that name for Another Under which you will always find her as much youre Friend as she ever was, or as you can Desire that she should be.'
Copyright © Kate C Baker