Friday, 19 June 2020

Gypsies, tramps and thieves; St Mary & All Saints Churchyard, Lambourne End

The hamlet of Lambourne End sits on the valley slopes below below Hainault Forest and above the river Roding, a mile or so away from the village of Abridge. The church of St. Mary & All Saints is surrounded by a few cottages and larger houses, at the dead end of a narrow and winding lane. One of my friends always said the church looked like it should be in New England; even the normally pernickety Sir Nikolas Pevsner in the ‘Buildings of England’ series coos that St Mary’s is ‘charming.’ The church is not generally untypical of this part of Essex; built from flint rubble with a weather boarded tower, Norman doorways and extensive 18th century renovations. In fact the only really unusual thing about it is that it is whitewashed; it’s this that makes it look almost American. The churchyard has a large modern extension but it is, of course, the old part that is most interesting. Unfortunately, as is often the case, many old headstones have been cleared away and disposed of leaving the churchyard looking half empty. The oldest headstone I could find was still in excellent condition and had a magnificent deaths head surmounted by a winged hourglass, a very typical 18th century design. It commemorated two children, Thomas Babbs who ‘dyed on the 5th day of July 1736 aged 5 years and 6 months’ and his sister Caroline who ‘dyed 23rd day of Dec 1737 aged 9 weeks’. It would have been a miserable Christmas in the Babb’s household that year. On the other 18th century headstones the inscriptions are illegible, worn away by acid rain, two centuries of weathering and obscured by florid lichen growth. 

There are a handful of chest tombs and a barrel vault for Thomas Hadgley ‘late of Wandsworth in the county of Surrey, who departed this life 31 July 1831 aged 79 years’. According to Wakefield's Merchant and Tradesman's General Directory for London 1793 Thomas Hadgley was a linen draper and haberdasher. There was a Hadgley who was a brewer in Abridge in the early 19th century; presumably the two men were related and Thomas came to join his brother in country retirement when he gave up the haberdashery business in Wandsworth. Only the top of the vault is above ground but there are openings at either end and the light of a torch is enough to illuminate a single lead coffin half leaning up against the wall inside.  The other notable memorial is the chest tomb of Admiral Sir Edward Hughes, known as Old Hot and Hot to the men that served under him for his love of blisteringly spicy victuals. The Admiral saw action all over the world, he was present at the capture of Portobello in Panama in 1739, served as lieutenant in the Cartagena Expedition of 1741, was at Louisburg and Quebec, and commanded the East Indies Station from 1773 to 1777. After peace was signed with France, he retired to his country house, Luxborough Hall in Essex, and dedicated himself to enjoying the ‘most princely fortune’ he had acquired in India (reputed to be worth £40,000 a year). He married twice, in 1753 and then in 1765, on both occasions to widows, but neither marriage resulted in any children of his own. He died in 1794 and was buried in some style in Lambourne. His fortune passed to his stepson Edward Hughes Ball Hughes, a well-known dandy, socialite and spendthrift known familiarly as Golden Ball who was celebrated for marrying a Spanish dancer and losing £45,000 pounds in one night at Wattier's Club. 

Normally the church is open is open during the day but in this, the plague year, its doors are firmly shut. It was a shame as it has associations and monuments to the often eccentric local gentry and clergy. The most prominent local family are the Lockwoods. In the 18th century Richard Lockwood was an ‘eminent Turkey merchant’, (not a purveyor of poultry but someone whose commercial enterprises specialised in trading with the Levant) and MP for Hindon, the City of London and the city of Worcester. According to the author of his monument inscription, ‘in the decline of life, thinking himself incapable of doing his country any farther public service he retired from the fatigues of business to his estate at Dews Hall and passed the last years of his life in cheerful enjoyment of family and friends and a truly religious service of his God.’  After a period of ‘gradual decay’ he ‘expired on the 31st day of August 1756, in the 78th year of his age’ and was buried inside the chuch. Richard’s heirs inherited the family traditions of duty and sacrifice in such a virulent form that over the coming century his descendants seemed doomed to exterminate themselves in the service of King and Country. According to Burkes ‘History of the Landed Gentry’ his nephew William was shot blind in 1774 battling with the mob whilst at Westminster School but the most favoured outlet for the family’s insatiable desire for self-immolation was the Coldstream Guards and the Hussars. Lockwood’s fought under Wellington in the Peninsular campaigns at Talavera and Busaco, were killed in the Crimean War taking part in the Charge of the Light Brigade and of course died in the first world war. Somehow the family survived the culling of its young men and was providing local members of Parliament up until the 1950’s. The Lockwoods were interred in a family vault inside the church and mural tablets and memorials put up on the chancel walls. John Lockwood, the son of Richard, has a fine monument of white marble by Joseph Wilton RA depicting Hope with an anchor in her left hand. The Reverend Michael Tyson who was rector of Lambourne in the 1770’s wrote to a friend “one of the most elegant modern monuments I ever saw was last week put up in my church for a Lockwood. I had ten guineas for allowing it a place."  

On the north side of the altar is a monument to Thomas Winniffe, former Dean of St Paul’s and Bishop of Lincoln. According to Bishop Gowden no one or ‘was more mild, modest, and humble, yet learned, eloquent and honest than Bishop Winniffe.’ Born in Dorset probably in 1576, Winniffe lived through one of the most contentious and conflict-ridden half centuries in English history from the death of Elizabeth, the accession of James the first, the civil war and execution of Charles 1, (to whom he was chaplain) and dying midway through the interregnum in 1654 at Lambourne. From good county Yeoman stock, Winniffe entered Exeter College Oxford in 1594 and took his BA in 1598 and MA in 1601. He became a fellow of the college and in August 1605 was one of the college scholars that took part in a dispute in moral philosophy before King James, Queen Anne and Prince Henry. He would have come to the attention of the court again the following year when he became involved in the notorious Star Chamber trial involving the alleged bewitching of Anne Gunther, a young girl from Moreton in Oxfordshire. Anne demonstrated many of the classic signs of being under the maleficent influence of witchcraft; falling into trances and fits, prophesying, vomiting pins and crying out the names of the women who had bewitched her. Anne’s sister was married to an Exeter College man and through the family connection many fellows and scholars heard of the case, including Winniffe, and travelled the half dozen or so miles from Oxford to Moreton to see for themselves the young girl’s torments. When his initial attempts to prosecute the witches locally failed, Anne’s father contrived to bring the case to the attention of the king himself. James was a serious, if sceptical, student of witchcraft and the case captured his interest. And so Thomas Winniffe found himself testifying to the Star Chamber in 1606 over the various strange and unnatural events he had personally witnessed. One of Anne’s symptoms was that, when in her fits, a strange and abnormal swelling the size of man’s head manifested itself in her belly and as a result of this her body become unnaturally heavy. Winniffe testified how one occasion he and a colleague, one Robert Vilvaine, had attempted to try and lift the body of the slight young girl when she was in one of her fits and found that they could barely lift her head from the pillow no matter how much effort they made. The case was eventually resolved when investigators appointed by the King demonstrated that the bewitching was a fraud concocted by Anne’s father Brian Gunter with his daughter’s connivance as part of long running feud between the argumentative villager and his neighbours.

It seems odd to describe a hamlet of a couple of dozen houses, two or three and a church as sprawling but in Essex agricultural communities were based around the farms and manor houses. Workers cottages were built near to the farms and the settlement could be spread over two or three square miles. Lambourne End where there are barely a dozen houses in sight of the church is undoubtedly picturesque. There is a pub a mile away up the valley side on the edge of Hainault Forest and the combination of rural charm and tranquillity, proximity to the East End of London and alcohol made Lambourne End a honeypot for cockney excursionists from the late nineteenth century until the Second World War. In 1942 London Transport withdrew its Sunday service on the 101 bus route which ran during the week from the free ferry at North Woolwich up through Beckton, East Ham, Manor Park, and terminated at Wanstead. On Sundays instead of turning back at the George in Wanstead the bus went on through South Woodford, Woodford Bridge, Grange Hill and Chigwell Row to Lambourne End where it disgorged its cargo of East Enders to run riot in the hedgerows and woods. Before the bus service day trippers came in pony and traps organised by the social clubs of Hackney and East and West Ham. The steady stream of visitors with shillings and half crowns to spend were entertained by a large gypsy community which organised side shows, horse rides and other attractions. Boisterous cockneys, proud Romanies and sullen  locals often made for an explosive mix. On Sunday 18 August 1895 Reynolds's Newspaper reported:

At Epping Police Court on Friday, Walter Bibby, 26, a gipsy, living in a caravan at Hainault Forest, Lambourne, Essex, was charged on a warrant with maliciously wounding William Goddard, an engineer, of 36, Ada-street, Broadway, London Fields, at Lambourne End, Essex, on August 6. Counsel said on August 6 a party of 140 or 150 members and friends of the Lansdowne Working Men's Club, Hackney, went down to Lambourne End in five breaks. During the afternoon there was a dispute with some gipsies over the hiring of a horse, and this led to the excursionists being attacked in the evening. Prisoner stood on the wheel of the brake, and as the vehicle began to move, he raised a large iron bar and threw it with all his force at the people in the brake. It struck William Goddard on the head, cutting his head open. Prisoner: Not me, sir. I'll fetch the man forward who threw that, sir. William Goddard and James Wynn, a fitter and carpenter, of 28, Well-street, Hackney, bore out the statement of counsel, and swore to the prisoner as the man who threw the iron bar. Goddard said he was still under the care of a doctor. His head was put open by the blow. The prisoner was remanded for a week.

It might have seemed an open and shut case but by 6 September the Chelmsford Chronicle was reporting the other side of the story:

THE AFFRAY WITH GIPSIES AT LAMBOURNE-END. At the Epping Petty Session on Friday, before C. J. Bury, Esq.. and other justices, Alfred J. Truckell, 40, of 1 Suffolk-road, Dalston, was summoned for maliciously wounding Jemima Finch, at Lambourne, August 6th, the occasion of the affray with gipsies already reported. Mr. Atkinson appeared for complainant, and Mr. Hobson defended. Complainant, married woman, said that on August 6th she saw defendant at about three o'clock in the afternoon against the Beehive public-house. He asked her to pay him back a sum of 2s. 4d., but she wanted to know what he meant, as she had not had a farthing from him. Defendant was one of the party bean feasters. She saw him several times during the afternoon about the place, but did not speak to him. In the evening she saw the brakes going away and noticed they stopped at Lambourne End. She saw defendant get out the second brake carrying a red stick about a yard and a half long. She was the first person he met, and, without speaking, he raised the stick as if to strike her on the head. She put up her left arm to shield her head, and received the blow across her arm. The blow broke her arm between the elbow and wrist, and she fell to the ground. Defendant remarked, "You cow; I'll do for you." Witness then became unconscious. She was taken to Dr. Brickwell's surgery and her arm was attended to. Cross-examined: She was waker and lived in a van. On this day she had a pony which she was letting out; there was a dispute about paying for the hire of ponies. She and others heard the brakes coming, and merely went out into the roadway to see them pass. Mr. Hobson: What did they all go out for? I don't know, sir. It's not private property. If they like to go out by the roadside they can. The two first brakes stopped because they were asked to stop by several people. Mr. Hobson: Can you suggest a reason why Mr. Truckell got off the van and at once struck you? He did his own mind, I suppose. I didn't say anything. Ada Bibby, wife of Walter Bibby, said she saw the defendant strike Mrs. Finch as alleged. She saw men jump out of the brake and start beating the gipsies. The Chairman: A free fight? Witness: A fight between them. Esther Dorton, of Lambourne-end, also deposed to seeing the defendant strike the complainant with a stick. The defendant, who reserved his defence, was committed for trial to the Assize, and was allowed out on bail. 

In November both cases were disposed of at the Essex Assizes in Chelmsford. The prosecuting barrister was Lord William Cecil, son of the prime minister Lord Salisbury.  During the trial it became clear that there had a number of skirmishes between the Hackney excursionist’s and the gypsies on August 6 caused by an argument over the cost of hiring a pony. Although in theory Alfred Truckell was on trial with the two gypsies Walter Bibby and Jemima Finch’s husband Henry in reality the prosecution argued that the gypsies were solely responsible for the violence and it was left for the defence barrister to argue that Truckell was as guilty as the other two accused. Unsurprisingly Truckell was acquitted and Bibby and Finch found guilty and sentenced to 3 months hard labour.  

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