Recorder's Report 2013 - 2014


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Littlebury Recorder’s Report February 2013 - November 2014

As Recorder for Littlebury I have written articles and given talks on local history, but without any history education apart from that of learning on the job, working on our community project: ‘Littlebury, a parish history’. In October 2011 I embarked on an MA in Modern History at King’s College, London, part time, finishing in September 2013 and graduating in 2014. For someone who thought they had completed their further education in 1971 the amount of required reading seemed formidable in content and quantity but the course was interesting and rewarding. Essays and the dissertation took up a lot of time too and this report missed a year but in continuing to maintain the Littlebury website and the cuttings file it has been possible to glean material for this review of the period.

Littlebury became the focus for landscape historian Christopher Taylor after a conversation about Littlebury resident, Henry Winstanley. It was a joy to to assist him and Alexandra Ault in an associated local survey on a cold February day.

Once again walkers came together to ‘Beat the Bounds’ of the parish in May. Congratulations to the doughty eight who completed the boundary - all eleven miles - and to those who walked on that beautiful summer day from Littlbury to Great Chesterford, the Icknield Way and up to Strethall Church to cool off and listen to Strethall Recorder Dr David Melford speak.

We picnicked in Kelvin and Marie Whitfield’s picture perfect spring garden in Strethall. Afterwards we walked past the Boundary Oak, Elmdon Lea, through Littlebury Green along Procession Way and up to the Temple of Victory, through Audley End for ice cream, exiting out of the Mill Yard and home to Littlebury via the edge of River Cam and Duck Street. Without permissions from Lord Braybrooke and Hon Amanda Murray, Tom White and the Audley End Estate, Tony Appleby, Carl Juhl, Rob and Kate Duke of Elmdon Lea, Robert Fairhead of Bordeaux Farm, Linda Dyer at Audley End House, Rose Clary of Essex Police and John Brownbridge for the Audley Fishing Club there would have been no walk; we were grateful for their kindness and help.

This year, 2013, the Recreation Committee and the Village Hall and the pub all have Facebook pages.

In 2012 Carl Juhl, who farms the Audley End Estate had found an old map leaning against a wall in an outbuilding at Bruncketts, the Estate office in nearby Wendens Ambo. This outbuilding would previously have served Mutlow Hall, the former home of the current Lord Braybrooke and his father before him. After a chance meeting with Carl and with the permission of Audley End Estate Office it was agreed that I should hold ‘A PLAN of the Town of CHIPPING WALDEN commonly called SAFFRON WALDEN in the County of ESSEX Survey’d by Edw’d John Eyre Surveyor. 1757’ temporarily, against it being kept on permanent loan at the Essex Record Office. After a preliminary showing in Saffron Walden Town Library, it was exhibited in the Town Hall on a very well attended ‘Map Day’. Subsequently I was invited to write about it, with Tony King of the Essex Record Office who described the map’s conservation, in an article for the Journal of the International Map Collectors’ Society, published in the summer.

The document was in poor condition. Splitting along a central join, mould was present with insect and rodent damage. The vellum surface layer on white fabric was tacked to wooden battens surmounted with a crumbling, woodworm infested frame. It was evident from the close proximity of these two elements that the plan had not been glazed. Since one corner was missing, and many edges were hanging loosely from the battening, the plan was detached completely for safety and kept in a cool cupboard until passed to the Essex Record Office.

The 1757 plan is the earliest known map of Saffron Walden and is important for the history of both the town and Audley End. In spite of its condition the layout of the town is clear. Some areas near the church are shaded green – possibly indicating estate ownership – and some dark grey. Most of the buildings are lightly shaded, distinguishing them from other areas within their cartilages with the meticulously drawn detail of their layouts. Mainly in the north of the town, well over a hundred properties are numbered, implying related documentation, possibly connected with the collection of poor rates.

The rococo cartouche reveals that in 1757 the town was on the cusp of changing its name – from Chipping to Saffron Walden, underlining its connection with a once famously abundant local crop, and that the author was Edward John Eyre. During Eyre’s career, 1751-69, he surveyed estates, parishes and parklands in at least twelve different counties and reference to him may be found in many record offices and libraries. His name appears on A Plan of the Town of Saffron Walden 1758, measuring 54in/137cm x 35in/88.9cm, and he is credited on another town plan at the ERO, again in poor condition, with the same title as that newly discovered, measuring 51 in /129.5 cm x 34 in / 86.3 cm, although without date or accreditation. Additionally, A Plan of the Manors of Walden 1758 bears his name, though not the seven farm maps related to it.

In 1753 a Deed of Partition of the (Audley End) Estate was signed between the 2nd Earl of Bristol and Elizabeth, Countess of Portsmouth and her sister Ann Whitwell. The Earl of Effingham had meanwhile taken possession of the house, park and mill although the Countess purchased these from him in 1751. It is likely that either Elizabeth or her nephew John Griffin Griffin (her legatee), or both, had acted promptly to commission detailed mapping the better to understand a complex inheritance – and the town. Griffin Griffin, keen to acquire as much as possible of the rest of the partitioned estate also knew that enclosure could facilitate better farming practices; good maps would be essential in all cases.

The polymath Henry Winstanley had made a series of prints of Audley End between 1676 and 1688. In 1677 Winstanley had bought four acres of land in nearby Littlebury, subsequently building a house there and then his House of Wonders.11 After his death in 1703, and several owners later, a Gilbert Marshall purchased the property in 1747, commissioning a plan of it in 1757 from Edward John Eyre. In the same year Eyre also made the (newly discovered) 1757 town plan orientated with northeast at the top, following it with another in 1758, the other way up.

The works dated between 1757 and 1758 and credited to Eyre vary considerably in style. The measuring and drafting for the seven farm maps was a huge task, although the hand that drew the comprehensive 1758 ‘A Plan of the Manors of Walden’, to which they relate, appears consistent throughout. We may reasonably assume that this new discovery is one of three town plans (this one possibly commissioned by the town), part of a body of mapping from the 1750s while Eyre was working at Audley End and that in view of their number, detail and variation in style it was made with the assistance of measurers and other draftsmen. The 1757 map, D/DBy P22, can be seen at

It is astonishing and delightful that fresh material can still be uncovered within the parish.

Led by Dr Colin Durrant, University of London Chamber Choir returned to Littlebury on the 23rd June for Friends of Holy Trinity Church of which Colin is Chair. The audience was enraptured by their singing and £1,000 was raised. The Friends followed up with ‘Secrets from the studio: 23 years behind a BBC microphone’. This was a well-attended evening with Robin Lustig, broadcaster, journalist and former presenter of Radio 4’s ‘The World Tonight’.

Friday 7th February. Floods in Littlebury made lakes of the meadows by the River Cam.

Notwithstanding that it was Lent the Friends laid on a popular fundraiser: a wine tasting evening in the church on the 21st March. Thanks to Jane Appleby, Steve Filby of C2C Wines brought many delightful wines to taste while Jane and the committee served delicious accompanying delicacies to go with them.

On 29th March Alastair Lloyd passed away. Alastair and his wife Susan lived at Granta House between 1953 and 2005 devoting an amazing amount of time and energy to the village, its church, parish council and Littlebury life generally. Littlebury also lost Denis Wright MBE who had played the organ for over 70 years – from his childhood during the war, and who had supported the village hall and the community for most of his life.

Rev’d Chris Warren died peacefully on 3rd April at the Arthur Rank Hospice in Cambridge, after a testing 18 months following his diagnosis. Chris was a devoted family man, a warm, generous friend, and a fine priest. Much loved and respected, he will be remembered with great affection. He leaves his wife, Isabella and two sons, Roland and Frankie.

On Monday 7th July hundreds turned out to see the Tour de France flash by North End on a beautifully sunny day. Littlebury residents were well organised for viewing the cyclists with drinks, tents and picnics.

In glorious sunshine the newly improved Littlebury village hall garden was dedicated to Denis Wright’s memory. A bench was dedicated to other long-serving village hall trustees: Mrs Susan Lloyd, Mr John Penney and Mr Gordon Wilby. Denis and John’s friends and family were present along with Susan, Gordon and their friends and family for the ceremony, together with many Littlebury residents. Paul Fennelly, chairman of the hall committee gave thanks and this was followed by speeches from Denis’s son Richard, Mrs Lloyd’s daughter Henrietta, John’s son Paul and Gordon Wilby himself. Just before a delicious afternoon tea, Denis’s wife Mary cut the ribbons of a bunch of red balloons revealing the new village hall garden plaque while student Abi Porter photographed the event.

The sun shone on all the varied activities at the annual fête including that of teddies hoisted to the top of the tower by the intrepid Joe Higham and Tim Hughes and cheered by spectators as they sped their way down on a zip wire. Joey the Goalie, a dog, amazed onlookers with his astonishing saves - a happy afternoon for all.

In conjunction with research carried out by Betty Astill, the Recorder and the Parish of Littlebury Millennium Society prepared an exhibition and individual wreaths of remembrance to commemorate the 24 from Littlebury Parish who gave their lives in WWI. These were on display during August, the exhibition being remounted for the month of November. It was good to have plenty of material to hand from which to create the exhibition and to glean more from Hugh Kidd who had recently published his book, ‘An Audley End Boyhood’ in conjunction with Jilly McNaughton. Hugh Kidd comes from a long line of head woodmen on the Audley End Estate, who lived at the Ring, a house in the estate woods. The book describes the dangers of poaching, their relationships with the Braybrooke family and growing up on the Audley End estate. In addition Hugh’s memories of the formality of church attendance, life as a schoolboy in Littlebury during WW2, and his life afterwards all conspire to give a fascinating read. During WWI, as a young teenager his great uncle Hugh had worked on the Audley End estate. At the mansion on an errand he met up with the butler who asked; ‘What’s a strapping lad like you not going in the army?’ Hugh promptly went to enlist, lying about his age. He didn’t return from the war; unsurprisingly his mother never forgave the butler.

On 2nd September The Bishop of Chelmsford, the Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell, together with the Archdeacon of Stansted the Revd Canon Robin King was at Holy Trinity to conduct the Licensing Service of Revd Jeremy Parsons as new Team Vicar in the Saffron Walden and Villages Team Ministry. Jeremy will have pastoral responsibility for the parishes of Great Chesterford, Little Chesterford, Littlebury and Wendens Ambo. As part of the service a wide range of civic leaders from across the local communities welcomed Jeremy and his wife, Ruth.

Later that month PCC Treasurer Jayne Loughran organised a ‘Walk for Chris’ in which 48 people, including many members of Chris Warren’s family, braved wet weather on a nine mile sponsored walk to visit five churches in his honour. The walkers brought picnics to Holy Trinity and church members welcomed them with fruit and freshly made coffee. Funds raised by this sponsored walk were split three ways between Cancer Research UK, Arthur Rank Hospice and the churches visited.

In Littlebury Jane Bradbury’s Educational Foundation is a charitable trust set up many years ago to help young people under the age of 25 with financial grants towards their vocational and/or educational needs. The parish includes Littlebury Green and Catmere End, so all residents who have not reached their 25th birthday are eligible to apply for a grant. Over the years the foundation has made a variety of awards to help many young people, and examples include financial help with the cost of music lessons, instruments, textbooks, overseas travel in gap years for good causes, uniforms and overalls, computer equipment for educational purposes, attendance at field and other courses, tools and equipment. This is a wonderful charity that welcomes all applications. The only difficulty is getting people to apply.

The parish council has been unable to get allotment land. Jan Menell offered some of her garden land to share, writing: “I have an area of land that is fenced and could be used by 4/5 people as small plots and a polytunnel that could be used by 3/4 people. Tools, water and manure are available. There is ample parking and some grazing land with field shelter that would suit a small pony or horse. I currently have many chickens, an ageing donkey and two fat/ageing pigs but would like to find new homes for some of the chickens. I have probably the best manure in the land - the consistency of Dundee cake - and a ready supply of water and garden tools.” Keen gardeners with little growing space of their own took up this offer quickly.

Jan has been our District Councillor for 40 years but as a result of the new Boundary Commission changes she was deselected at a party meeting, only two councillors being required for the representation of a new district to be known as Littlebury, Chesterfords and Wenden Lofts Great Chesterford. Preparing a tribute for her for the Walden Local there was little difficulty in finding councillors prepared to speak in her praise. Tina Knight, District Councillor for the Wards of Debden and Wimbish summed up: “It has been a privilege to be a colleague of Jan’s for the last 11 years. Her sanguine disposition, her sage advice and her humour have only been superseded by her dedication to her ward of Littlebury. With the renaming of wards with the boundary changes she fought strongly to make sure that Littlebury was the dominant name – she won! A wonderful woman who deserves all the accolades attributed to her.” Littlebury residents will be sorry to have lost the option next year to vote for her.

The photographer Gordon Ridgewell and his wife Megan, artist, photographer and family historian, have come to live at Goodwins Close in Littlebury, which is quite close to the railway line. Gordon Ridgewell wrote to say that he had checked the train timetable on 16th July and had got quite a surprise. “In 24 hrs 124 trains passed by; the 66001, was travelling from Mountsorrel in Leicestershire to Harlow Aggregates Processing Plant. The engine weighed 127 tons trailing a load of 2000 tons. On the return journey it was trailing a load on 600 tons meaning it delivered 1400 tons or about 40 lorry loads'. He wrote again on 1st August that another 8 trains a day had started running. ‘That is 8 each way = 16 plus the 124 on old timetable. Now it is 140 per 24 hrs.” On 20th October he observed the Oliver Cromwell steaming out of the tunnel at Littlebury on the way from Ely to Newbury and submitted a photograph – a splendid sight.

A new lighting scheme was in place in time for the Remembrance Service in Holy Trinity Church. Offering different lighting styles and highlighting the church’s fine architectural details, they are the culmination of a project started three years ago to further enhance the building for worship and community use. The work costing £27,000 was funded largely by generous grants from Viridor Credits and the Essex Environment Trust while The Friends of Holy Trinity Church and local people raised over £5,000. Through church architect Rod Shelton, Tim Venn was engaged to design the scheme, which was then carried out by K D Schofield Ltd of Colchester. Bob Rust who managed the project described it as a complete transformation. It is indeed. It is wonderful how careful lighting can change a church’s appearance: it is light, bright and newly welcoming.

The day before many people had turned out to work in the churchyard at an event known as the ‘Ivy Pull’ preparing it for the ceremony. At Littlebury the large number of names to be called out is very moving, there are five from the Woodley family alone, one a nursing sister. No Woodleys live in Littlebury today whereas a century ago there were several families of that name. Without that war, how differently made up might Littlebury’s population be.

This year Littlebury lost three notable residents: Alastair Lloyd, Denis Wright and Gordon Wilby. Gordon had run the village shop and was always popular, so much so that that a surprise party was thrown for him in May. Up until the last he attended village hall events, dancing with the prettiest girls. Strethall too lost the delightful Marie Whitfield, whom I mention here because it was in her garden that the Littlebury boundary walkers had sat and had their picnics in 2013, carrying away with them the memory of her scented spring flowers, the hum of bees ringing in their ears.

Ref 1: In his current article for Landscape History (Vol. 35, 2014, 2) Christopher Taylor argues that Henry Winstanley would not have built the house in 1677 as is usually posited. In the first academic paper about Winstanley he explains how the first mention of his House of Wonders by Celia Fiennes in 1696 coincides with his Eddystone Lighthouse project of the same date. Winstanley’s domestic house being built first, The House of Wonders was added later to finance the building of the Lighthouse.

Lizzie Sanders
Littlebury Local History Recorder