News: The Society's new website, esah1852.org.uk has been launched. Changes will be made to this blog over the coming weeks to improve user experience.

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Nigel Havers on 'Who Do You Think You Are'

Tonight (Wednesday 31 July, 9.00pm, BBC1) is the first showing of Nigel Havers on 'Who Do You Think You Are' (repeated 1.8.13, 10.35pm). We'll find out his Colchester connection, and others who took part will establish how much was edited. 

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Stand Tall in Colchester

'Stand Tall' is an exhibition being held on the streets of Colchester and the immediate surrounding area to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Colchester Zoo.  All around the town in streets and parks until 26 August 2013 are colourful giraffes, many of them over 2 metres tall. You can't miss them! A Trail Map has been produced. For more go to www.colchesterzoo.org/standtall

Monday, 29 July 2013

Library at Hollytrees, Colchester

Essex Archaeological Society's Library at Hollytrees, Colchester (1929-2000)

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Unknown Artist. Who was H. Paterson?

Goldhanger
David Newman of Goldhanger writes: 

"I have a query related to a sketch of Goldhanger village square on the March blog page. The sketch is clearly drawn by the same artist as several other similar drawings shown of other villages and they are annotated "HP", which I have now learnt is H Paterson, but I can find nothing about this artist, whom I now assume was Essex based.

"As a local historian in Goldhanger I have been collecting copies of early village scenes for many years and some 20 years ago a gentleman in his nineties allowed me to copy of this same sketch, but he couldn't remember how it came into his possession!"

Can anyone help?  Who was H Paterson?

Friday, 26 July 2013

Smallpox: Daniel Sutton and Ingatestone

Smallpox inoculation is one of the topics covered in 'The Local Historian' (May 2013, Volume 43 No. 2).  The author, Mary South, mentions a Daniel Sutton: "the Suffolk surgeon ... perfected a simpler and safer technique using lighter incisions, and serum from immature pustules." (p.122).   Of course inoculation is entirely different from vaccination, and was quite controversial in the 1760s.  "Daniel Sutton started an establishment for the cure in Ingatestone in 1763", E E Wilde wrote. She devoted a chapter in her book 'Ingatestone and the Great Essex Road' which marks its centenary this year. "Hither flocked thousands of people to him during the next few years, and he was quite as successful as his father, for during this time he treated 20,000 people, of whom not one died" (Wilde 1913, 261). 

Sources: 
Mary South.  Smallpox inoculation campaigns in eighteenth-century Southampton, Salisbury and Winchester
E E Wilde.  Ingatestone and the Great Essex Road, with Fryerning (1913)

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Rainham Hall Archaeology Weekend: 17 & 18 August 2013



The National Trust has recently been awarded an HLF grant to support the “Rainham at the Centre of the World” project which will restore Rainham Hall and Stable block. As part of the kick-off for the project we will be conducting three days of archaeological investigations in the east garden (the formal lawn area immediately behind the house) of Rainham Hall in August. The purpose of these three days is to:

  1. Record any buried evidence which may be impacted or lost when the builder’s compound is installed in the east garden area in the autumn.
  2. Answer and resolve certain questions relating to the design and evolution of this particular section of garden.
  3. Investigate evidence as to whether or not there was an earlier settlement/occupation on the site prior to John Harle’s building activity of the 1720s.
The archaeology project will commence with an electrical resistance survey (geophysics) to be undertaken on Friday 16 August. Based partly on the results of this one-day survey a maximum of 5 trial trenches will then be opened up on Saturday 17 and Sunday 18 August. The house will be open on the Saturday for guided tours and we are also proposing to have the gardens open both Saturday and Sunday. The excavations will be publicised and local people encouraged to come along and see what is happening.

The works will be led by a National Trust archaeologist, Gary Marshall, who has been involved with the broader Rainham project. Gary will need assistance in order to get the work done and we are looking for volunteers to help out on Saturday and Sunday.

This should be an exciting weekend and presents a great opportunity to get some hands-on archaeological experience and (hopefully!) help to find out more about the evolution of Rainham Hall and its gardens.

No archaeological experience is necessary although if you do have any and would like to be involved then that experience would be very helpful. Places are limited and preference will be given to people who are able to commit time on both Saturday and Sunday. There will be a waiting list for anyone who would like to be involved on one of those days but cannot do both.

We are asking people to bring along their own lunch although tea/coffee and other light refreshments will be provided. We also ask that anyone participating makes sure they wear appropriate clothing and sturdy footwear for this outdoor activity.

It should be possible for children to participate but they will need to be accompanied by an adult at all times and it will be the responsibility of their accompanying adult to ensure their safety.

Finally it should be said that if you would like to participate in the excavations you will need to be reasonably fit and active. That said, the washing and processing of finds and interpretation of the excavation to any visitors are both gentler forms of activity so if you are not sure if you are up to digging but would still like to be involved on then that is an option.

If you would like to be involved then let me know as soon as possible. Do feel free to pass this onto anyone else who you think may be interested.

With best wishes,

Emily

Emily Gillespie
Rainham Hall Programme Coordinator
Stable Yard
Morden Hall Park
Morden Hall Road
Morden
SM4 5JD

Tel: 0208 545 6850

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Who Do You Think You Are?: Nigel Havers and Colchester

'Who Do You Think You Are?' begins its tenth series on BBC1 tonight at 9.00pm.  A few months ago the Colchester Gazette reported that Nigel Havers was spotted in Colchester filming with local historians and suggested that his presence formed part of this genealogy series.  We know now that this actor, who appeared in 'Chariots of Fire' in 1981, is one of the guests.  Local historians have not let on what the connection is. 

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Rainham Hall (National Trust) receives Heritage Lottery Grant Award

Rainham Hall (National Trust)

The National Trust has been awarded a Heritage Lottery Grant to restore Rainham Hall and adjacent stable block.  For more read this item from the Romford Recorder: http://www.romfordrecorder.co.uk/news/rainham_hall_to_open_for_the_first_time_to_the_public_1_2272848

The Essex Society for Archaeology and History visited the Hall and Church in Rainham in 2011.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Philip Laver

A photograph of Philip Laver, found in the archives of the Essex Society for Archaeology and History.
Philip Laver (d. 1941)

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Henry Laver

A photograph of Henry Laver, found in the archives of the Essex Society for Archaeology and History.
Henry Laver (d. 1917)

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Hedingham Castle is next Society Visit

Hedingham Castle
Members of the Essex Society for Archaeology and History will be visiting Hedingham Castle in Castle Hedingham on Sunday 18 August. 

Thursday, 18 July 2013

ESAH160: ESAH Occasional Papers

ESAH160: ESAH Occasional Papers: OCCASIONAL PAPERS – OLD SERIES The following three occasional papers were produced on the initiative of G.M. Benton, the Society’s Hon...

Industrial Heritage Destroyed in Chelmsford

ESAH160 recently reported the campaign by the Council for British Archaeology to save iconic and important Marconi buildings in Chelmsford.  It seems that all was too late, as these photostreams show: http://www.flickr.com/photos/stuart166axe/8694182918/in/photostream/ and http://www.flickr.com/photos/stuart166axe/8759229560/

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Woodham Walter Celebrates 450 Years of Church

St Michael, Woodham Walter
St Michael's Church, Woodham Walter celebrated its 450th anniversary last weekend with a Flower Festival.  The church, built in 1653, is thought to have been the first 'Church of England' denomination building constructed in Britain.  On hand last Saturday was Queen Elizabeth I to welcome pilgrims.  The Flower Festival's theme was 'A Journey Through Time', telling the story of the village through key people and events. One display remembered a local hero who died last year but had served in the RAF during the Second World War. Another display highlighted 'The Bell' inn built in about the same year as the church.  The pub made an excellent stopping point for lunch. 

Tribute to Air Commodore Ted Sismore, DSO, DFC, AFC, AE
- a local hero

The Bell Inn, Woodham Walter - in flowers

The Bell Inn, Woodham Walter (built c.1563)


Monday, 15 July 2013

Mersea Island Archaeology

Mersea finds and circular foundation, from the Transactions of the Essex Archaeological Society, new series, Volume 16.


Saturday, 13 July 2013

Festival of Archaeology 2013

The Council for British Archaeology hosts a fortnight's events starting today (13 to 28 July 2013). For more go to www.archaeologyfestival.org.uk 

Friday, 12 July 2013

Valentines is Next Visit

The next meeting of the Essex Society for Archaeology and History is this Sunday (14 July). Members will be visiting Valentines Museum and Park.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

High Country History Group: Timely Talk on the Mary Rose

High Country History Group: Timely Talk on the Mary Rose: The High Country History Group's next meeting could not be more timely with the recent opening of the Mary Rose Museum in Portsmouth, ...

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

ESAH160: Transactions Contents: 'New Series' Volume 25

ESAH160: Transactions Contents: 'New Series' Volume 25: Transactions ‘New Series’. Volume 25 Contents Volume XXV, Part I (Out of Stock) I.                     Centenary Service at Al...

ESAH160: Transactions Contents: 'New Series' Volume 17

ESAH160: Transactions Contents: 'New Series' Volume 17: Transactions ‘New Series. Volume 17 Contents Volume XVII, Part I Buy a copy from our Online Bookshop I.            ...

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

ESAH160: Transactions Contents: 'New Series' Volume 16

ESAH160: Transactions Contents: 'New Series' Volume 16: Transactions ‘New Series. Volume 16 Contents Volume XVI, Part I Copy available from our Online Bookshop I.                 ...

ESAH160: Transactions Contents: 'New Series' Volume 10

ESAH160: Transactions Contents: 'New Series' Volume 10: Volume 10, Part 4 - available from our Online Bookshop Completing the sequence of Contents for 'Old Series' Volumes 1 - 5 and...

Monday, 8 July 2013

ESAH160: Transactions Contents: 'Series 3' Volume 18

ESAH160: Transactions Contents: 'Series 3' Volume 18: Essex Archaeology and History: Volume 18 (1987) Transactions of the Essex Society for Archaeology and History (Out of Stock)  Contents...

ESAH160: Transactions Contents: 'Series 3' Volume 11

ESAH160: Transactions Contents: 'Series 3' Volume 11: Essex Archaeology and History: Volume 11 (1979) Transactions of the Essex Society for Archaeology and History (120 pages) (Out of Stoc...

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Essex Archaeological Society Meeting

Our archives have a picture of, presumably, the Essex Archaeological Society, meeting somewhere unknown, probably during the Edwardian era. Has anyone any information?
Where is this?

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Friday, 5 July 2013

Essex's Industrial Archaeology: Conference Tomorrow

A one-day conference is being held at the Essex Record Office on the topic of Industrial Archaeology. 

How much coverage this topic has had in the past by the Essex Society for Archaeology and History is debatable.  Clearly there are enthusiasts who today will be launching a sub-group of the Society. 

On the one hand: 

Industrial Archaeology has been an area almost totally ignored by writers in past volumes of Transactions.  The only post-medieval reference I can find in the Contents listings is an article in Volume 37 by Crosby, Garwood and Corder-Birch on ‘Industrial Housing in Essex’ – most conveniently a topic on the day’s programme by the same clutch of authors.  Having a box full of Volume 37’s for sale at ERO for £5 each seems a good pairing. (The logistics need to be worked through.)  Other references in the third series are about the late medieval cutlery trade in Thaxted (vol 29); the Roman salt industry (Vol 26); the medieval textile industry (Vol 20) and the Mesolithic industry (Vol 10). Reference to industrial appears in Vols 8 and 9 only.  That’s it!  The Last Days of Bay-Making in Colchester appears in the ‘New Series’, now viewable online.

Another view of industrial archaeology is taken in response: 

I think you may be overly pessimistic about the amount of industrial archaeology in ESAH, the last two volumes both had articles (as it happens both about brickworks), rather a lot of industrial archaeology/post medieval archaeology, may be lurking under the guise of building recording, for instance volume 33 for 2002 has reports on the Brooks maltings at Mistley, St Andrews hospital, Billericay (formerly the Billericay Union workhouse), and the Fyfield truants school; not to mention a group of apothecary vessels from Stratford.  Part of the problem is what is or is not industrial archaeology, a lot of people would not include Bronze Age metalworking (or for that matter Roman salt making), but would certainly include hospitals and schools.

The formation of a sub-group is a welcome addition to the Society's development. 

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Chelmsford's Industrial Heritage

The demise of Chelmsford's industrial heritage is typified in a planning application which proposes demolition of some of Marconi's buildings to create new housing.  The Council for British Archaeology and Association of Industrial Archaeology has opposed the plans approved by the City Council, it is reported in 'British Archaeology' (March / April 2013, p65), and have attempted to gain listed status to the 1930s art deco style block and Building 720.

Chelmsford boasts as being the 'birthplace of radio' so it seems incredulous that the cradle of wireless should be destroyed.

'Essex's Industrial Archaeology' is a one-day conference to be held at the Essex Record Office on 6 July 2013. One of the talks, inevitably, is about this iconic firm.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Book Review: A Guide to the Industrial Archaeology of Essex

The Conference and launch of the sub-group
was inspired by the book and the
enthusiasm of the author and others.
'A Guide to the Industrial Archaeology of Essex' by Tony Crosby for the Association of Industrial Archaeology (AIA) 2012 68 pages, ISBN 978 0 9560251 1 1. £5.50 + P&P

This A5 booklet provides a gazetteer of industrial sites in Essex which was published to compliment the AIA's annual conference held at Writtle College, Chelmsford, in August 2012.  The introduction to the gazetteer emphasises the largely agricultural basis for many of the sites included and gives a brief summary of each category comprising mills; other agricultural industries; malting and brewing; engineering; textiles; extractive industries; transport; electronics; public utilities and industrial communities. 

The author draws upon his considerable knowledge of the industrial sites of Essex to include a range of sites that are now rare, unusual and or regional and national significance.  These sites are ordered in the gazetteer by the 12 Districts in the current administrative County of Essex and the 2 Unitary Authorities of Thurrock and Southend-on-Sea but that part of historic Essex now within Greater London is excluded.  For each district all gazetteer entries are listed alphabetically by town or village and have a letter and number reference which relates to the relevant District map, colour photographs and the index.  In addition to location information, including a NGR reference, there is a brief description of what there is to see at each site. 

In recent years there has been a growing appreciation of the quality of industrial heritage sites which survive outside of Britain's traditional industrial heartlands.  The wide range of sites detailed in the booklet demonstrates the extent to which this applies in Essex. It is a welcome introduction to the industrial sites of the county and provides a useful starting point for anyone wishing to carry out further research.  The Essex Society for Archaeology and History is acknowledged for its generous donation towards the production costs of the gazetteer.

David Buckley

This item appears in the Society's Newsletter, Spring 2013

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Essex's Industrial Archaeology - one day conference this Saturday, 6 July

So what is industrial archaeology?  A series of talks will enlighten those interested in local history this Saturday, 6 July (9.30am to 4.30pm), when the Essex Record Office holds a one-day conference in association with the Essex Society for Archaeology and History.

Tickets for the seminar day cost £15.00 including refreshments and buffet lunch. Please book in advance on 01245 244614.

The Essex Society for Archaeology and History will have a stand and a bookstall selling back volumes of its Transactions and other books not required for accession to its Library. 

Subjects covered during the day will be:

David Alderton: Why Industrial Archaeology?
Prof. Roy Simons OBE: Marconi, the Father of Wireless
Paul Gilman: The Essex Historic Environment Record (EHER) and the Industrial Archaeology of Essex
David Morgans: Beeleigh Steam Mill
George Courtauld: The history of Courtaulds Ltd. in Essex– the first 100 years
Tony Crosby: Industrial housing inEssex

More about some of our speakers and their talks:

David Alderton: Why industrial archaeology?
It may not be immediately obvious why an archaeological approach is appropriate or necessary to deal with a relatively recent period of history for which there is a wealth of records: documentary, photographic artistic and indeed oral. This introduction looks at why an archaeological approach investigating the tangible remains of Britain’s industrial past is also needed to gain full understanding of the uniquely important period during which Britain became an industrial nation.

David Alderton first became interested in industrial archaeology while teaching in a textile  area of Yorkshire in the 1960s. He joined the Association for Industrial Archaeology shortly after it was formed and has held many offices within it including President, Secretary and for many years Conference Secretary. He was responsible for covering Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire in the Batsford Guide to the Industrial Archaeology of East Anglia published in 1981, and has written other articles and short publications relating in particular to the use of industrial archaeology in teaching. He moved into teacher training in 1971, ending as a Lecturer in Education at the University of East Anglia. He moved to Essex in 2010.

Professor Roy W. Simons OBE CEng FIEE CPhys FInstP: Marconi, the Father of Wireless
In 1898, Guglielmo Marconi chose Chelmsford to establish the world’s first wireless factory. The Marconi Wireless Telegraph Co. Ltd, and the other Marconi companies which formed later, are hugely important in Chelmsford’s history, and the technologies they developed – from radio to radar – changed the world forever. Currently there are active plans to set up a Marconi Heritage Centre in Chelmsford.

Roy was educated at Southend High School, Northampton Polytechnic (now City University) and Mid Essex Technical College (now Anglia Ruskin University). He joined Marconi Research Labs at Great Baddow in 1943, developing specialist receivers for wartime Direction Finding Systems. In 1965, he was appointed Technical Manager of the Radar Division, with responsibility for all Radar development activities, and was Technical Director at Marconi Radar Systems Ltd from 1969 to 1981. He retired from Marconi Radar Systems in 1986. Roy has lectured at, amongst others,Queen Mary College, University of London, and was Visiting Professor at the University of Sussex. Roy is Vice-President of the Chelmsford Engineering Society, and was the sole civilian lecturer on the Senior Engineering Management Course at RAF Cranwell (1980-86). Roy has researched the early history of the Marconi Company, was actively involved in preventing the public sale of the Marconi archives, and is a past President of the Marconi Veterans’ Association. He was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in the Birthday Honours in June 1986.

Paul GilmanThe Essex Historic Environment Record (EHER) and the Industrial Archaeology of Essex
The EHER has its origins as the Essex Sites and Monuments Record (ESMR) which the County Council started to compile in the 1970s. To begin with the ESMR mainly held records of ‘traditional’ archaeology such as round barrows and Roman villas, and relatively little on post-medieval and industrial archaeology. This changed in the 1990s following the appointment of an industrial archaeology specialist to the county council’s team. This resulted in a programme of thematic countywide surveys designed to systematically enhance the ESMR’s coverage of industrial archaeology in Essex. The step change involved in the ESMR becoming the Essex Historic Environment Record resulted in the addition of Listed and other historic buildings. This in turn was followed by other surveys of recent heritage, such as seaside heritage and defences. Paul will outline the progress and success of these developments and their importance, since the EHER is the most comprehensive and up-to-date inventory of the county’s historic environment. As such it plays a vital role in the protection of this heritage via the planning system, as well as providing an invaluable information base for the benefit of all who are interested in the county’s historic environment.

Paul now works as a European projects manager with Essex County Council where he is responsible for two projects concerned with historic defence heritage. However, he has 30 years of experience of working with Sites and Monuments Records (SMRs) and Historic Environment Records (HERs), and from 1990 until April 2012 he was the manager of the Essex Historic Environment Record (EHER). He is chairman of the Association of Local Government Archaeological Officers’ Historic Environment Records Committee and has published a number of papers on SMRs and HERs. His work with SMRs and HERs was recognized when he was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London. He has also co-edited two editions of the national guidance for operators of HERs, known as Informing the Future of the Past. During his time with the EHER, Paul oversaw an extensive programme of enhancement of the EHER’s coverage of the county’s industrial archaeology. Paul also obtained European funding for the development of a regional network of industrial archaeological sites, the Industrious East, via the European Route of Industrial Heritage (ERIH). He was also elected to serve on the international board of ERIH for three years and, in recognition of his work for this association, in 2012 he was elected as an honorary member of ERIH.

David Morgans: Beeleigh Steam Mill
The most enigmatic of the County Council mills, Beeleigh is slowly giving up its secrets. Unusually surviving intact after the fire of 1875, that devastated the adjoining water mill, Beeleigh beam engine and its dedicated circular flour mill are proving to be a fruitful area of research. Built in 1845, the circular hurst design had already been superseded by the horizontal layshaft and its Woolf Compound engine by high pressure steam. Was it then a second-best option for a cash-strapped owner or does it represent the preferences of a conservative miller?

David Morgans was educated at the University of Lancaster and City University Business School, before developing a career in the construction industry. A lifelong interest in archaeology and historic buildings led to an opportunity for career change in 2004 and project management within the Historic Environment Branch of Essex County Council. Working with Paul Gilman, he developed and launched Industrious East, the ERIH Regional Route of Industrial Heritage in the East of England, and developed the popular travelling exhibition Working Lives. Since 2009, he has given adult education classes in economic and local history at the University of Essex. He was appointed Mills Support Officer for Essex County Council in 2010 and his spare time is currently spent developing an industrial heritage project in South Yorkshire.

George Courtauld: The History of Courtaulds Ltd. in Essex – the first 100 years
Courtaulds was founded by George Courtauld in the 1790s, manufacturing silk, crepe and other textiles. The business grew and grew, and by the 1850s employed over 2,000 people in three mills. The current George Courtauld will describe the story of the company, from its beginnings in Pebmarsh in 1798, development in Bocking, Braintree and Halstead, to world-wide expansion from about 1910.

George Courtauld is Vice Lord-Lieutenant for Essex; a farmer; an author (5 books); President and former Chairman of The Haven Gateway Partnership, Chairman The Essex Environment Trust, The Rural Community Council of Essex; and co-founder and Chairman of the Essex Women’s Advisory Group. Previously, he was Chairman of The North-East Essex Strategic Learning & Skills Council (2004), the Prince’s Trust (Essex) and the Harwich & Stour Valley Group, and Vice-Chairman of the Lord Chancellor’s Essex Advisory Committee. He was a High Sheriff of Essex (2001/2); and a District Councillor (Independent) for 18 years. President and patron of several charities and institutions including the Friends of Essex Churches, the Scouts (Essex) and the ECF. Education included Halstead Girls Grammar School (briefly), Gordonstoun and Pembroke College, Cambridge. Commissioned into the Grenadier Guards; then employed in Courtaulds Ltd for 20 years. Appointed a Queen’s Messenger in 1986, he served for 14 years, travelling 3½ million miles worldwide. He is married to Dominie, with 4 children and 11 grandchildren.

Copies of Volume 37 will be availble
for sale at the Conference
Tony Crosby: Industrial housing in Essex
Tony will begin by exploring what motivated industrialists and companies to provide housing for their workforces. He will continue by tracing the development of industrial housing from the 18th to 20th centuries, highlighting the industries and companies concerned, analysing the location, quality of accommodation and community facilities also provided, and the architectural styles used.  Tony Crosby et al wrote an article on this topic which appears in 'Third Series, Volume 37' of the Society's 'Transactions'.

Tony Crosby studied Industrial Archaeology at the Ironbridge Institute and since graduating has been involved in six of the thematic surveys undertaken by Essex C.C., as well as undertaking historic building surveys on industrial sites in Hertfordshire. He has published a number of articles in Industrial Archaeology Review, other history journals and has contributed to four books. He sits on English Heritage’s Industrial Archaeology Panel, is a Council member of the Association for Industrial Archaeology, and member of the Friends of Great Dunmow Maltings. He recently retired from the Heritage Lottery Fund where he was a policy advisor on industrial, maritime and transport heritage, and now works as a freelance consultant on industrial archaeology and heritage.

The day will also include the launch of a brand new industrial archaeology sub-group of the Essex Society for Archaeology and History, affiliated to the Association for Industrial Archaeology, for those wishing to share their common interest in the county’s industrial past, its archaeology and heritage.


Monday, 1 July 2013

Book Review: The 1953 Flood Disaster

The 1953 Essex Flood Disaster – The People’s Story.  Patricia Rennoldson Smith. (The History Press, 2012)

As a timely commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the 1953 flood, Smith’s book offers an extensive collection of memories from survivors and victims, providing a graphic account of the impact of the flood along the Essex coast.  The chapter order follows the route of the storm surge, covering each town and village affected, starting with Harwich, Jaywick and Canvey Island and Benfleet, receiving greater attention, and the details of the night are presented chronologically.  The day or hours before the fateful night are sometimes mentioned, although most frequently Smith moves straight onto the moment the flood struck, and how the people reacted to it, providing a good balance of stories of heroic efforts, tragedies, and light hearted moments, all of which bring home the impact of the event on people’s lives.  Whilst the accounts are mainly limited to the initial rescue and recovery, this helps emphasise the scale of the disaster and enormous efforts carried out by the emergency services, such as the police and fire brigades, voluntary organisations, such as the British Red Cross and Women’s Royal Voluntary Service, and members of the public, often after being rescued themselves.

Smith uses many previously unpublished photographs and recorded memories to tell these stories effectively.  These normally include extended captions or quotations from the survivors in the body of the text, which help provide a strong picture of the impact of the flood on the individual residents.  When these accounts are collected, they truly present the people’s story, and show that whilst the impacts an rescue and recovery efforts varied between areas, the flood will never be forgotten in the towns affected. 

The use of photographs, cartoons and maps are also well placed, with captions which link them to specific incidents or memories mentioned in the text.  These help visualise the extent and scale of the disaster.  Also included, at the end, is a very powerful list of those who perished during the flood, listing their ages and the roads in which they died.  This helps demonstrate that all ages were vulnerable, although the young and elderly were particularly at risk. 

A well recorded bibliography is included for those who wish to pursue the subject further, and the captions for the photographs, cartoons and maps are accurately referenced.

To conclude, Smith’s well-constructed book is intended for those with a general interest, but it is also a brilliant stepping on point for those wishing to explore the 1953 flood further.


This review originally appeared in the Spring 2013 edition of the Newsletter of the Essex Society for Archaeology and History, and was written by a history student at the University of Essex.