Essex is a fascinating county. During my travels, I collected many intriguing stories that I felt belonged under the folkloric umbrella. The Oxford English Dictionary defines folklore as the ‘traditional beliefs customs, songs and stories, preserved in oral tradition among people; the branch of knowledge that deals with these; popular fantasy or belief.’ Well, the material I gathered certainly fell within this remit. Along the way, I met Darren Mann from the Paranormal Society who passed on numerous ghost stories connected with Essex. Many people with knowledge of witches were obliging in supplying fascinating background material and the Witch Museum staff in Boscastle, Cornwall were also helpful. The Folklore Society staff kindly arranged for me to view some of their huge collection of books on folklore which is held at University College London.
I also appreciated help from the British Library, Colindale Library, English Folk Dance and Song Society and Essex Museums and Libraries. Readers will learn about our ancient Dunmow Flitch ceremony, Fairlop Fair that so intrigued Charles Dickens; the Whispering Court at Rochford and dozens of other traditions peculiar only to Essex. Dr Ralph Vaughan Williams and Cecil Sharp - two important luminaries responsible for the growth of folk song and dance in 1903 - have several pages dedicated to their work in England. The book’s cover personifies William Shakespeare’s contemporary, Will Kemp, whose agile, distinctive figure appears on the book’s front cover, ‘ dancing the Morris’ on his way from London to Norwich through Essex during his ‘Nine Days Wonder’ during Lent 1599.
I'm still signing books and meeting people who seem to enjoy reading about their county’s traditions, legends, dialect and stories that have been handed down through generations. Extracts from the book have been included within BBC Radio Essex, Phoenix FM Radio and BBC Radio 2 productions.Publisher: Tempus Publications ISBN 0-7524-36777