The Foxearth and District Local History Society

The Website

This is a website for a Local History society. We are proud of the contribution that local historians have made to our understanding of history, and therefore do not feel the urge to pontificate about historicity, post-modernism or national politics: we simply wish to understand this part of East Anglia. Our raw materials are the pieces of primary evidence that we have inherited. Our simple craft is to try to explain and make sense of the bewildering mass of curious information and trivia that have come down to us from our ancestors. This website is part of that effort.

This Website opened quietly in mid-August 2003.  Remarkably, however, despite the lack of publicity, its popularity has been gradually but steadily building up over the decades and the site receives  many visits a day. Most of the visitors we get are intent on understanding the history of the place they live in or that their ancestors inhabited. After relying, for many years, on the members of the Foxearth and District Local History Society  for their subscriptions in order to fund the site, the Braintree District Council have now helped us with a grant towards the cost of maintaining the website.

We have been very lucky to receive some exceptional contributions since the site opened.  The late Tom Hastie  (GH) contributed his huge archive of newspaper transcriptions  and then added material to the years 1850 to 1862, including the notorious Catherine Foster trial. He added the news items from the Ipswich Journal from 1760 to 1780, and the entire text of 'The Extent of Borley', a remarkable survival from the fourteenth-century, which describes in some detail the parish of Borley at the time. The heirs of Vernon Clarke have allowed us to republish his popular pamphlets on Essex. These are guidebooks for anyone exploring the interesting and picturesque parts of Essex and the Suffolk borders, full of interesting historical diversions and asides. They are light in touch but based on painstaking research. These are gradually appearing on the site as they are transcribed. Kenneth Glass, who was rector of Glemsford in the 1960s has let us republish his excellent 'Short History of Glemsford'. Lastly, we were delighted to get Robert Simpson's wonderful and moving history of the wartime Aeroplane crash at Borley, entitled 'And Far with the Brave I have Ridden…' This is local history at its finest. Well researched, written with sympathy and humanity, and recorded with a lightness of touch that allows the facts themselves to speak.

With the great energy of Keith slater, we've been able to build on the remarkable collection of old photographs scanned from several local collections to try to make them as comprehensive as possible, and are particularly keen on tracking down early photographs taken in the area before 1900.

The Newspaper Archive

The newspaper archive that is the core of this website was collected over fifteen years of painstaking work at the Public Records Office by a member of the Foxearth and District Local History Society.

This work was a true labour of love by someone who had a clear idea of what local history should convey. The news items were selected mostly by the late Tom Hastie, purely because they caught the eye. If they were something to do with the four North-Essex parishes (Borley, Foxearth, Liston and Pentlow) and their surroundings, then they were included: if they were to do with local events or local people, they joined the collection too. If they seemed to capture the spirit of the times, they were also added. After a while, the collection grew to incorporate items from all over this part of East Anglia, chosen to capture the full range of the lives and activities of the people who lived here.

This collection aims to provide a perspective of everyday life in this part of East Anglia over nearly two centuries; a history of ordinary people derived purely from contemporary sources. It is a historical record with nothing taken out. The historian has not imposed himself over the material.

There are stories of murder, accidents, riot, passion, superstition, and violence, as well as examples of generosity, endurance, companionship, faith and perseverance.

There are many themes that one can pick up from this collection, such as the awful consequences of Spring Guns, the horrendous accidents from threshing machines, emigration, transportation, the growth in yields in the farms, the traffic accidents from horse-drawn carriages and carts, the desperate poverty of the labourers, the gradual building of the welfare state from the parish care, the ghastly slaughter of the trenches.

There are milestones too. The preparation for an invasion by Bonaparte, the rejoicing over Waterloo, the groundswell of revulsion over the slave trade, the coming of the railways, the collapse of farming prosperity, the invention of the aeroplane, the coming of the wireless and television

The newspaper cuttings are almost all about people, these people and their families that grew up, lived, worked, emigrated, and were killed or died. They also record their joint endeavours; the farms, factories, mills, firms and estates. It illustrates their pastimes, entertainments and sports in such a detail to fire the imagination and make a past age come alive. This collection provides a memorial to ordinary people who lived their lives in Rural East Anglia over the past two centuries