Tuesday, December 29, 2020

A SPECIAL DAY IN ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY

Tuesday, 29 December is a significant day remembered since 1170 when Thomas Becket, Archbishop to King Henry ll was murdered by four knights before the High Altar at Canterbury Cathedral. Three years later, on 21 February, Thomas was canonised by Pope Alexander lll and pilgrims from around the world made their way to Canterbury to pay homage to this extraordinary man. 

Note below from 'On This Day' historical website:                                            

Thomas Becket

Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Becket

Profession: Archbishop of Canterbury

Nationality: 
England
English

Why Famous: Commoner made good, he was appointed as Archbishop by King Henry II; they argued over Church privileges, and Becket was killed by four knights who took the king at his words "Who will rid me of this troublesome priest?"

Subsequently canonized by Pope Alexander III. The king made public penance at Canterbury Cathedral.

Born: December 211117
Birthplace: Cheapside, London, England
Star Sign: Sagittarius

Died: December 291170 (aged 53)
Cause of Death: Assassination

Saturday, December 26, 2020

THANK YOU TO ALL MY FRIENDS AND LOCAL HISTORY ENTHUSIASTS


Many thanks to all my friends, colleagues and expat aficionados who kept up to date with Brentwood history via my new (twelfth book) celebrating the history of fifty of the Borough's buildings. Of course, there were far more structures (a couple of hundred more listed buildings) that could have been chosen, but publishers have their rules when it comes to pagination. 

It was lovely to present a signed copy of my latest book to HRH the Duke of Kent in February 2020 when he opened the newly remodelled Brentwood Town Hall 

During this unfortunate covid year, most of the official book-signing events had to be curtailed and even cancelled, but during early spring, we did manage to visit some of the buildings to present copies to those who kindly allowed me access to roam around their homes, offices and church interiors and I have since made some new friends and history-lovers worldwide, particularly in America where there are at least seventeen 'Brentwoods!'

I am especially grateful to Brentwood Borough Council's team, their mayor, CEO and staff for the tremendous help given, and inclusion in their re-opening day with HRH the Duke of Kent, just after their completion of the rebuilding of their Town Hall, also to Father Martin Boland at Brentwood Cathedral and Lord Petre of Ingatestone Hall, all buildings with which I've have enjoyed a long and interesting association. 

When restrictions lifted over the last year, I was able to sign (and gold-seal) my new book at Waterstones and WH Smith around Essex, and again, it was enjoyable to meet readers and history enthusiasts.

Monday, December 21, 2020

CELEBRATING THE WINTER SOLSTICE AND MORE NEWS ON THE MAYFLOWER SHIP PREPARING FOR THEIR FIRST CHRISTMAS IN THE NEW WORLD

December 21 is a special day for many of us.  As well as being the winter solstice celebrated by so many throughout the world, we also remember the Mayflower ship that had set sail on 6 September 1620, with 102 passengers aboard, reaching the  American shoreline on 11 November. Many Essex folk were on board, including a party of some of our own Billericay townsfolk, including the influential provisioner of the Mayflower project, Christopher Martin. Below, is his home in Billericay High Street pictured in the 1950s.


We now have a spectacular new statue erected in Billericay by our Town Council which commemorates the sailing of the Mayflower as a permanant reminder.  The notable artist and sculptor, John Doubleday, calls it “They Sailed for Freedom”. 

This statue links Billericay to its past and as such the installation will be an important addition to our Billericay Community Archive Group. 

Currently reading informative books written by British author Julian Whybra and an older novel by the American historian Nathaniel Philbrick.  

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Sunday, December 20, 2020

WATCHING OUR LOVELY FORMER SWWJ PRESIDENT VICTORIA WOOD ON CHRISTMAS TV


Currently watching Victoria Wood's life story (VICTORIA WOOD IN HER OWN WORDS) way back in the 1970s via her earliest plays and TV - so talented and funny. How lucky we were to have Victoria as our SWWJ President - really appreciated her presence at our events in the past.  www.swwj.co.uk





Friday, December 18, 2020

A TASTE OF CHRISTMAS PAST IN BILLERICAY ESSEX


 

Always one of our favourite folk in the town


Still a  best seller by Elizabeth Wallace

Tuesday, December 08, 2020

VIRTUAL BOOK CLUB ON WEDNESDAY 9 DECEMBER - PHOENIX 98FM JUST BEFORE NOON


 Due to covid restrictions, our monthly visits to Brentwood's Phoenix98fm Studios have not been possible over the last ten months.  However, at 11.50am if you listen to our local radio station Phoenix98fm, you can again learn what our guest, the author Brian Hughes MBE has been working on over the last year.  Michelle Ward, our super presenter had invited Brian into her studio in 2017 and, at the time, Brian was preparing to write his memoir which has resulted in the best selling memoir A LAW UNTO MYSELF.  Do listen to hear a little about Brian's life and loves and what he is currently working on for his second book.   @sylviaakent 


Saturday, December 05, 2020

CRIME AND CRIME-WRITERS - BUT NANCY WAS THERE FIRST!

 Everyone has a tale to tell! Journalists rarely need to travel far to find a good story. When I came to live in the village of Herongate, just down the Ingrave Road from Brentwood town, I called on my new neighbour and discovered she was a well known name in Scotland Yard. No, not a convict, but the honourable Nancy Crofton Savill, who, as a young woman had been England’s first professional woman criminologist (1905-2003).

Nancy at home aged 94

Nancy’s father, Henry headed the famous Essex Savill property firm. One of Nancy’s forebears was Archibald Cameron, doctor to Bonnie Prince Charlie. Cameron lost his head on Tower Hill after the 1745 rebellion.

“Our family came to Essex in 1905, the year of my birth. My father settled at Bell House, Coxtie Green (now Peniel Academy), later moving to Crown Cottage, Navestock. My sister Margaret and I never attended school.

“My father was educated at Harrow. He was given a ‘fag’ for a while, who was a young lad called Winston Churchill. Father cared not for education for girls, although he did employ some Irish ineffectual governesses to teach us, but primarily, we were self-taught,” Nancy laughed during our interview for my first book Brentwood Voices published in 2001.

Nancy loved Brentwood. The Savills were well connected in Essex, wealthy enough to enjoy a leisurely life. In 1909 this photograph was taken of Nancy and her friend Viola Quennell whose family consisted of doctors and lawyers who’d lived in Brentwood for generations. Nancy’s sister married into the Quennell family and moved to Ireland.

“I suppose we were lucky children. We had our own ponies. I remember trotting into Brentwood along the Ongar Road to visit Austen’s toyshop, which, before the Great War, was in St Thomas Road.

“Golliwogs and teddies were my favourites and I still have Teddy upstairs which, like me, is almost 100-years-old. Exercise was part of our regime and we played tennis on our courts.

“A big treat was when my father’s friend, Horace Bentley - whose family started the famous car firm - took us to dine at the Savoy - then drove us home in a Bentley (of course) to Bell House. He enjoyed staying with us over Christmas, a charming, amusing man.

“I took a history degree at King’s College, London and loved my job studying crime at Scotland Yard. My tutor was Professor Leon Radzinowicz and I travelled daily from Brentwood station. By then I lived at Herongate with my mother and housekeeper Edith Diment with Teddy Teal, our butler-cum-chauffeur. He taught me to drive my first car, a huge Angus Sanderson.

“With the declaration of war, I became Herongate’s billeting officer, casualty officer, fire officer, information officer, mortuary officer in the WVS Ambulance Corps. When the warden asked if each officer had arrived at the emergency scene, he looked flummoxed when I nodded ‘yes’ five times!”

In later life Nancy served on both the Essex and National Executive Committees of the Women’s Institute – and presided over the Herongate and Ingrave Preservation Society.

Nancy was kind next door neighbour, with a dry wit and sense of fun. I picked up much horticultural knowledge her and her gardener, Charlie Humphreys and the wine wasn’t bad either!

Copies of my books, including Brentwood in 50 Buildings, can be ordered from my blog www.sylviakent.blogspot.com or from Amazon, Waterstones and WHSmith.


Friday, December 04, 2020

HELEN OXENBURY AND HER ILLUSTRATIONS

 How fortunate I've been in my work of interviewing hundreds of the world's most creative people working in music,art and entertainment.  Invitations to the annual seminars in London and south east (Essex Book Festivals) have brought me in touch with many of my favourite folk (see my earlier blog postings over the last  fifteen years)

Currently, on BBC Radio Four, Desert Island Discs I'm listening to Helen Oxenbury whom I met at the London Book Fair some years back and bought some of her beautifully illustrated books (published by Walker Books) mainly linked to children's reading. What a great pleasure to listen to this fascinating lady's life and times, with an added bonus of catching up with Erroll Garner's Lullaby of Birdland as one of Helen's eight musical choices.  A little bit of my favourite modern jazz on a cold Friday morning has been so uplifting!  



Wednesday, December 02, 2020

THE NEXT 100 YEARS FOR INSPIRATIONAL WOMEN IN LAW - WEBINAR 1 DECEMBER

 As archivist for the Society of Women Writers and Journalists, I try to collect as much historical information about our former members as I can. Zooms and webinars have been useful over the last year or so.  What a lovely invitation to be linked to last night's webinar dedicated to eminent legal women of the past. I will certainly soon be reading Judge Rose Heilbron's biography, written by her daughter, Hilary Heilbron QC. 

Helena Normanton QC

One of our own earliest members and good friend of the Society, Helena Florence Normanton QC (1882-1957) was the first woman to practise as a barrister in England in 1922. www.swwj.co.uk  She served on our Council for years as vice chairman and held many notable positions, as well as being the second woman in Britain to be called to the Bar of England and Wales, following the example set by Miss Ivy Williams in  May 1922. When Helena married, she kept her surname and in 1924 she was the first British married woman to have a passport in her maiden name.