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Foxearth and District Local History Society – 9th October 2018

“Who am I?” was the intriguing question around which Clare-based, Kelly Cornwell built her talk to the Foxearth and District Local History Society on Tuesday, 9th October. Sixteen members showed their warm appreciation of Kelly’s expertise and enthusiasm at the end of her detailed description of the processes of researching one’s family tree and discovering perhaps some surprising facts about one’s ancestors. From a show of hands it appeared that at least half of her audience had done some historical delving into the past and Kelly gave some valuable advice to those wishing to approach the subject.

Clarity about what you want to find out is the starting point. Recollections of relatives – especially older ones – can lead to lines of enquiry. Documents such as wills, baptism, marriage and death certificates give reliable information, although a word of caution here is relevant; it is not uncommon for a person to be known – perhaps for all their life -  by a name quite different from that shown on official documents so verifying a suspect fact before proceeding may prevent an excursion into a blind alley! Old photographs are often very useful particularly if a name, place or date is written on the back.The list of sources goes on and on including newspaper accounts, parish registers, censuses- and, if you feel like a wander, gravestones. Local Records Offices are usually very helpful. These are all possible avenues to explore off line but when it comes to searching via the computer there is a multitude of helpful web sites – some of which are completely free. Kelly demonstrated the access to some of these.Why not take up the challenge or if you would rather engage an expert to do the job for you then Kelly runs a consultancy service and over the last 14 years has achieved some impressive and highly praised results. (htpp/

Kelly told us of some of her research into her own ancestry and gave a delightful account of an aunt  who, some generations ago, was convicted of “borrowing” a gown and some jewellery from an employer for a night out. For this she was sentenced to transportation to Tasmania where her colourful career apparently continued – so, as I understand does the research!  This was a most interesting and enjoyable evening. Kelly fielded a large number of questions demonstrating the keen interest she generated.

Secretary Clare Mathieson reminded members of the arrangement for the annual dinner (The George, Cavendish, Tuesday 11th December) for which menus are available and deposits due. She also asked that members give some thought to topics, visits they would like to see included in 2019 and future programmes.

Next meeting: Tuesday 13th November at 7.30pm in Foxearth Village Hall when President Ashley Cooper will discuss Heroes, Villains and Colourful events in our Local History.

Ken Nice

Foxearth and District Local History Society Meeting Report – 11/9/18

About 25 members gathered at a meeting of the district society in Foxearth Village Hall on Tuesday 11th September to hear Dr Richard Young talk about the Victorian observatory dome  and   telescope on the top of the Athenaeum Club building in Bury St Edmunds. Although the town is not short of historical features the presence of the observatory was not widely known until the Club – which owns the observatory – decided in 2015 to launch a project for its restoration seeking to raise intially £6,000. The purpose of the project is to preserve a rare piece of astronomical history, show to the public views of the stars and to teach their location. Dr Young, Founder and Chairman of the enterprise described, with many photographic examples, the work involved with the first priority being the repair of the access stairs to the dome. In its present form the Athenaem building dates from 1789 with the dome being added after the Astronomer Royal, George Airy,  had given a talk on Donati’s comet which was then – in 1858 -  causing great excitement to local sky watchers. Rev. Lord Arthur Hervey was President of  the Athenaeum Society and a leader in the dynamic scientific community who added his weight to the movement for a dome.

The restoration will include a complete overhaul of the telescope which was made by the 19th century renowned firm of instrument makers – Troughton and Simms. It is a 4 inch retractor with a magnification capacity of between 30X and 300X and complete dismantlement, cleaning and re-assembly will be necessary to ensure its valued use for generations to come.

Dr. Young also talked about the rare sundial situated in the Abbey gardens.  The dial is on the side and at the top of a tall stone column – a Victorian drinking fountain -and dates from 1870 when it was given to the people of the town by the 3rd Marquess of Bristol. It is thought to be possibly the earliest example of a dial which allowed people to set their clocks by Greenwich mean time. Many photographs showed the details of the apparatus and the various astronomical inscriptions and calculations it bears.

This was a fascinating insight into a hitherto unexplored aspect of local history which generated a large number of questions and earned a warm response for Dr Young.

Secretary Clare Mathieson informed members that a reservation had been made for the Annual Dinner of the Society on Tuesday 11th December at the George, Cavendish. Members will shortly receive the menu and booking and deposit details.

Next meeting: Tuesday 9th October 7.30pm when Kelly Cornwell will talk about investigating your family history.

Ken Nice


Foxearth and Liston Parish Council Meeting – 8/9/18 – A report

The Council met on Saturday 8thSeptember with Cllr Tony Clayton in the Chair and 5 local residents present.

Housing Needs Survey: The Chairman reported 34% of residents had responded to the request for their views and that the Rural Community Council of Essex was analysing the results.

Essex County Council: No report was available.

Braintree Dostrict Council : A written report from D. Cllr Iona Parker was read. Concerning the Local Plan (to 2033), BDC must provide more information to the Inspector for the  garden communities to be included. Work will shortly begin on slip roads to connect Freeport and Braintree centre to the A120.

Public Participation Session:  A question was asked about the cleaning of the Foxearth village sign: the Clerk agreed to follow this up with the contractor

Liston Village Green: The Chairman proposed that, at the request of the Liston Residents Association,  the green should become a registered green. This would protect the area and a plaque would commemorate the “Peasants Revolt” which started there.

Defibrillator: On attempting to install the defibrillator on the front wall  of the Village Hall the Community Heartbeat Trust had found that the structure was insufficiently strong to take the weight of the equipment. The Trust will try another installation method and will make good any damage,

Broadband;  Cllr M Posen reported that County Broadband had informed interested residents that design plans are complete and that construction is due to begin in November to take about 8 weeks.

Cllr Posen noted that the villages do not have a formally registered “Broadband Champion”. He offered himself for this role – which would enable him to receive uodates directly and pass them on  – and this was agreed.

Foxearth War Memorial: Cllr Posen explained that he had discussed this project in detail with Cllr C Cox (in her capacity as Secretary of the Parochial Church Council) with a view to the Parish Council taking financial responsiblity for the restoration; as the memorial is on church land it must remain a PCC project. The Village Hall Trust had agreed to double its previous contribution of £500 leaving a budget shortfall of £1,350 which the Parish Council agreed to meet from its reserve funds.

Footpaths: Cllr. K Robson said that he would be happy to discuss any concerns or questions local residents may have about footpaths. Cllr. Robson’s details are:

                  Email :   Mobile tel. 07900263666.

Planning: No objections had been expressed to an application for a single storey extension to a property in Foxearth.

Next meeting: Saturday 10th November 2018 at 9.45 am in Foxearth Village Hall

Ken NIce