Sunday, July 27, 2008



Chris Brewster, Curator at the Cater Museum, opened the doors on Saturday after months of building work supported by the Heritage Lottery Grant awarded earlier in the year. What a great day with so many visitors and press presence. The little garden looks lovely now and Chris is grateful to the Friends of the Museum who have done much work to make it so pretty. The Friends work hard bringing their individual expertise to all areas of the Museum.

Now, of course, we can welcome visitors who can’t make the stairs, but who will be able to view some of our artefacts on our brand new video screen on the ground floor. As our Museum dates back to May 1960, Christine arranged the display of a beautiful vintage Ford Zodiac, kindly loaned by the Ford Motor Company. The car dates from the first year the Museum was open to the public.

More than 6 crates of objects dating from the beginning and first half of the 20th century have been recovered. And now that the miniature dig is complete, an 18th or early 19th century brick floor has appeared, a few feet below the surface. Essex County buildings expert, David Andrews, has confirmed that dating and also some surprise results.

The listed garden wall was thought to be Victorian, as one of the bricks has 1849 inscribed in it. However, Mr. Andrews confirmed that the garden wall is really earlier that thought, being Georgian, as is the house. The dated brick was added later, either as a replacement brick or for decorative or commemorative purposes.

Do come and visit us at 74 High Street, Billericay from 2pm – 5pm every day except Sunday Phone 01277 622023


Spent the hottest day so far this year at Ickworth House near Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk. Took hundreds of photos for current feature I'm researching.

Ickworth had been in the ownership of the Hervey family from the 15th century. The house, park, and a large endowment were given to the National Trust in 1956 in lieu of death duties. As part of the handover agreement, a 99-year lease on the 60-room East Wing was given to the Marquess of Bristol. Around ten years ago, the 7th Marquess of Bristol, partly for financial reasons, and partly in response to an eviction suit stemming from his behaviour on the property, sold the remaining lease on the East Wing to the National Trust. The Trust subsequently refused to re-sell the leasehold to the 8th Marquess of Bristol on his succeeding to the title in 1999. There is now a 27-bedroom hotel in the East Wing.

The front of Ickworth House is over 600 feet long, and the rotunda is over 100 feet high. The rotunda was based on the designs of Mario Asprucci, an Italian architect; the architects who adapted the design and oversaw construction were Francis Sandys and his brother Joseph Sandys. Begun for the eccentric 4th Earl of Bristol in 1795, the house was still unfinished when he died in 1803 and was completed by the 5th Earl of Bristol (later 1st Marquess of Bristol).

It contains paintings by Velázquez, Titian, Poussin, and Claude Lorraine, as well as an unrivalled series of 18th-century family portraits by artists such as Gainsborough, Reynolds, Vigee-Lebrun, Batoni, Angelica Kauffman, Ramsay, Van Loo, and Hogarth. In addition, Ickworth has arguably the best collections in Britain of fine Georgian silver. The house also contains very good examples of Regency furniture and porcelain.

The West Wing at Ickworth House went uncompleted until 2005, when a joint partnership between the National Trust and Sodexho Prestige led to its renovation and opening as a centre for conferences and events. The first wedding in the property's history took place in 2006.

All the Hervey family, from Thomas Hervey (d. 1467) up to the 7th Marquess of Bristol, have been buried at Ickworth Church, which is located in the Park, a short walk from the house. The church is Norman with some later additions, and possesses a 15th-century wall painting of the Angel of the Annunciation, a 15th-century font, and roundels of Flemish glass from as early as 14th century, as well as numerous marble achievements to different members of the Hervey family over the centuries. It remains in the hands of the Hervey family and is now derelict and unsafe.

Sunday, July 20, 2008


Lots of activity in Billericay on Friday evening. First, to Rising Sun for John Baron MP's awards for the hugely successful Fun Walk where more than 60 charities who took part, received their certificates and awards, sponsored by Veolia.

Then onward to Canon Roche' Hall for the Billericay in Bloom prize-giving. John Baron, BBC Radio's Ken Crowther and, of course, Billericay Town Council oversaw a packed hall with the best of Billericay gardeners receiving awards. This annual event was sponsored by many local companies. More pictures coming up in local press.


Brentwood Writers' Circle members enjoyed listening to that well known Parliamentary journalist Brian Curtois who gave a fascinating talk at the Ursuline School yesterday.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


Lots of renewed interest in my book which is to be republished soon. Copies can be purchased from Amazon and most good bookshops. Superstitions are touched very lightly within and I have now amassed a large collection from around the world which will interest many students of this particular area of folklore.

Sunday, July 13, 2008


This piece of ancient folklore happens every Leap Year. The tale originates in 1104 and is linked to the Augustinian Priory of Little Dunmow. The story is wonderful and you can check it out at the Dunmow Flitch Website. Geoffrey Chaucer alludes to the Dunmow Flitch in the Wife of Bath's Tale and certainly over the last century we learn much about it in novels, films, plays and current media activity.Currently, the five couples standing before the Trial Judge and the Jury of six young bachelors and six maidens are volunteering to put their marriages to the test before a court of hundreds of local residents and visitors from all over the world. Have they repented of being married to each other (well, for at least a year and a day)? Already some couples have been carried shoulder high through the town in the ancient Flitch Chair and the gift of a Flitch of Bacon has now been claimed by some of them. Superb day yesterday celebrating these noble couples. Thanks to Trial Judge Michael R Chapman, the examining Counsellors and the Jury - we have been treated to poignant and funny memories, high drama, pantomime, crisis and much laughter in front of the enthusiastic audience in the packed marquee. Appreciation goes to Helen Wildman, Graeme and Jenny Wade,David Ainge, Vicar of Great Dunmow and the Trials Court Chaplain and the whole team - what a wonderful weekend!

Saturday, July 12, 2008


Superb day at Great Dunmow for the Flitch Trials - everyone had a great time and the event will be written and illustrated by some of the dozens of photos we managed - film crews there good coverage by radio and TV.



Can't supply images from 900 years ago, but here are some from the 18th century and from past Flitch Trials. Today is going to be good! Also check out some of Essex's other folklore tales from my FOLKLORE OF ESSEX available on Amazon and soon to be reprinted.


Every four years we visit Dunmow for the Flitch Trials which are a fabulous and fascinating piece of pure Essex folklore. A flitch (a side) of bacon will be awarded to married couples from anywhere in the world, if they can satisfy the Judge and Jury of 6 maidens and 6 bachelors that in ' twelvemonth and a day' they have 'not wished themselves unmarried again'.
A reference to The Dunmow Flitch is even in The Wife of Bath's Tale within Chaucer's 14th century Canterbury Tales. Four years ago we met the lovely Claire Rayner to Essex as one of our Counsel in the Flitch Court.

We must ensure that this unique Essex tradition continues. So if you haven't seen or heard of The Dunmow Flitch Trials before, take a browse through the DUNMOW FLITCH WEBSITE and come along with us to watch the trials with national radio and TV producers for the film 'Secret Essex'. More than 7,000 are expected to turn up today, so get there early to find a good seat in the marquee. To learn more about the Trials and other interesting stories from this part of England, read my book FOLKLORE OF ESSEX which gives a full background to this 900-year-old tale of love (on page 12!)

Friday, July 11, 2008



Billericay has been home to some remarkable people. Sixty years ago the late Ivor Rosaire of Circus fame (1911-2005), settled in Coxes Farm Road. Already the farm was well-known as the winter quarters of the Rosaire Circus which, before World War II, had been world famous. Some of the town’s tradesmen - including the town’s postman, - Jack Bartlett, remembers hearing the roar of animals as he came past the farm. "I also came face to face with a friendly bear one morning when delivering," he recalled. The friendly Rosaire circus folk invariably started their touring year by putting on a special Easter performance on Sun Corner.

Ivor’s niece, Joan Rosaire, was famous in her own right both in the circus world as a child circus star and later a respected horse-trainer and performer in London’s West End, has recorded her memoirs for the BBC, recalling the times when she topped the bill in London’s West End theatres with her famous horse Goldie.

Elephants were important to the circus and none more so than Salt and Sauce, who became a legend as part of George Lockhart’s famous "Cruet". Several books have been published describing their origins and lives. Jamie Chipperfield Clubb is the author of a brand-new book "The Legend of Salt and Sauce’ in which his own father, the famous animal trainer, Jim Clubb plays a vital part. In 2002 he came to Billericay to talk to Ivor and Joan about their lives in the circus as Ivor was the last person to have been involved in the training of Salt and Sauce. As Jamie recalled: "By all accounts Ivor was an extraordinary individual, even by the standards of his profession and the circus family he was born into."
Salt and Sauce came to Billericay in 1936 when Cissy Rosaire and Wally Shufflebottom married at St Mary Magdelen Church in the High Street. The elephants carried the bride and groom from the church and were photographed by the world-famous Pathe News. A year later Salt and Sauce appeared iu the film ‘Elephant Boy’. Jamie has written about Joan’s beautiful mother, Zena, who performed on the high wire, her grandfather, ‘Count’ Fred Rosaire and other talented members of the family. "Ivor was the best showman of Rosaire’s Circus. Confident, with a little amiable vanity, as though he is aware that women in the audience consider him a handsome fellow, yet he succeeds in getting everyone’s attention for Salt and Saucy, who move with trundling certainty through their series of tricks. They stand on two legs, squat on their vast haunches, and one of them, to the delight and alarm of the audience, carries Ida round the ring in her mouth. Ivor, in breeches and a sun-helmet, directs them coolly and takes his applause as his two lumbering charges leave the ring".
Jamie’s superb book is published by Aardvark Publishing and is available from good bookshops ISBN 978-1872904-36-8

Tuesday, July 08, 2008



The Billericay Fun Day was a great success this year at Sun Corner. So much to see and enjoy. There were several new innovations this year - the arena events were superb - our Billericay fire brigade was there as usual, demonstrating what happens when water is used to fight a fire. Many of our friends from overseas who are visiting the town at the moment loved this special day.

Friday, July 04, 2008


Celebrating Lynfa in Japan

Thursday, July 03, 2008


Lynfa Phillips is no stranger to my blogosphere. She is one of my “wonder women” and acknowledged as such by the Welsh Government, travelling as she does to and from Japan for her own business. She does so much for Groundwork Merthyr, Rhondda, Cynon, Taff which are twinned with Groundwork Fukuoka. Lynfa plans to visit them again in October.

Lynfa enjoyed my "touches of the orient" and some of my new Japanese friends who serve me green tea (which is very good for you!) Seeing my photos from Chelsea Flower Show, she was reminded of the former Chelsea prize winning Japanese garden at the Welsh botanical garden at Llanarthne. It was transported, planted, then opened by the then Japanese Ambassador. Lynfa donated a Sakura tree to the garden in memory of Taichi Nishio, her former colleague from whom she inherited her firm - Import Agencies Ltd.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008


For most of us, trying to find a moment of peace in our
hectic schedule is like searching for a needle in a haystack.
When faced with a crisis it's more likely that we'll fly into
a panic than calmly assess the situation and formulate a
plan to deal with the problem.

With the help of The Brilliant Book of Calm written by Tania, you can take
charge of your life like never before, so that when push
comes to shove and the proverbial hits the fan,
all you need to do is take a deep breath before you deal
with whatever life has thrown at you.
Packed with advice on how to slow down, calm down
and find your inner Zen master, The brilliant book of calm
will help you find and maintain a balanced perspective on
life, so that you can deal with anything. Whether you're
permanently stressed-out or just in need of a bit of a push in
a calmer direction, Tania Ahsan's road-tested advice will enable you
to live a calmer, richer and happier life.

About the authorTania Ahsan has been a lifestyle journalist and editor for over 10 years and has written for a variety of publications, including Metro, the Guardian and The London Paper. She is also the former editor of Predictions magazine, and has a lifelong interest in mind, body and spirit topics. Tania runs journalism workshops on health and personal well-being subjects, and is also an artist, specialising in Spellstones. She has been gathering tips and advice on finding inner peace for 33 years, and has just about mastered a state of perpetual calm. Well, most of the time!


ZOE STREET HOWE'S WEBSITE - Interesting new site from Zoe who invites us to laugh more. Her various websites are really worth tuning in to – good music and she has a super voice! nme | bbc | london tour dates | 4music | contemporary | the sun