Picture of church

CHAPTER 15. PARISH MISCELLANY


Contents of chapter


The idea of this chapter is simply to collect the things that do not appear to fit elsewhere in this book. Mostly there is little documentation of these items.

Connections with other parishes

Rural parishes, even today, retain a feeling of social self-sufficiency, autonomy and tradition. However, in the last half century, parishes in suburban and industrial areas, which is what Cranham has become, have tended to lose their identity. Today, Cranham looks west to Upminster, with whom our streets intermingle, and London; at Cranham today there is very little orientation towards Essex, beyond the occasional trip to South Weald park or Brentwood. Doubtless, many people in Cranham feel an affinity with the East End or The City, because of birth or work, (including the author, who trained at The London Hospital in Whitechapel, and whose family comes from Bow and Stratford). Yet one of Cranham's features is that it is geographically placed to take advantage of what both Essex and London can teach and offer. As we have seen, this dual capability has created much of Cranham's history (eighteenth century landowners, value of arable, etc.) Essex offers now, and has always offered much which London cannot, as well as vice versa; it would seem a pity to ignore the former in favour of the latter.

It would be redundant to go back through the last 14 chapters, repeating all the types of interaction that Cranham has had with other parishes. Many of the actors on Cranham's stage have played parts elsewhere in Essex. Care of the poor, landowners with widespread holdings, Edward Ind as Sheriff and Lord Lieutenant, and the sale of Thurrock beer by the publican at "The Plough", would all be good examples of interactions between Cranham and other parishes in the county.

There is no place-name evidence for common ownership with other parishes, except in one instance. In the parish of Great Waltham, near Chelmsford (TQ699122), there is a Cranham Farm. Curiously, as in our parish, the place-name for this farm was also written as Crawenho in 1333 (65). In spite of this, there is no record, nor even a tradition, of any connexion between our parish and this farm. The identical place-names may be a co-incidence because Cranham is a compound of two relatively common words in the Saxon language. Similarly, there is another parish called Cranham in Gloucestershire; its most famous institution is Prinknash Abbey (famous for its handicrafts); however, once again, the name similarity seems co- incidental.

Outside of England, Cranham has had occasional connexions with Georgia, USA, even after the war of Independence. Thornwell Jacobs investigated Oglethorpe's tomb in 1923. It is rumoured that the spire from the old church of 1872 was eventually sent to Georgia, as a gift (186); however, a personal search, on and off for two years in Georgia, has failed to provide any evidence for this rumour, and since the spire would have had to have been stored for almost 50 years before shipment, the author is inclined to regard this story as merely rumour. The choir woodwork, at All Saints', was provided by a Ladies' Society in Georgia some years after Jacobs's excavation. Perhaps echoing the stories about the old spire, the arms of St.John's, when removed from the old rectory (at the top of the Chase) in 1987, were certainly given to the Friends of Oglethorpe, in Atlanta (213). Several exhibits from Georgia, now in a case on the south wall of All Saints', probably represent reciprocation for this shield. Of course, Oglethorpe is remembered far more often in his colony today, than at Cranham. And of course, the Georgians came to Cranham this summer (1996), to lay a wreath at the General's grave on the 400th anniversary of his birth.

CRANHAM AND WAR

The definitive account of the effects of the Second World War are in Mr. Watts's book; this covers the whole of Havering, including, of course, Cranham (278). Table 14 is drawn from this definitive account. Physically, Cranham now bears few signs or scars of war. Although the holes at the north eastern corner of Franks Wood are known as "bombholes", their true origin is unknown, and probably natural. Until about 1968, there was a small pill-box at the junction of Front and St.Mary's Lanes, in the undergrowth, beneath the railway embankment. Apart from the War Memorial inside the church, there are few other traces to suggest that the parish was ever in a country embroiled in such frequent warfare over the last thousand years or more.

Psychologically, however, there is no doubt that many of the residents of the parish have clear wartime memories. People still tend the Wargraves Commission memorials in the churchyard, and many in the parish emigrated from East London during the development that has taken place in the last forty years, whilst still retaining their memories of the Blitz. These experiences deserve commemoration, and if people can stand it, they should be recorded; we are within 20 years of the loss of the great majority of these people.

Perhaps we can briefly consider the effects of four wars on Cranham. Though sometimes subtle, these wars have had significant historical impact on the parish.

The Norman invasion was viewed as an unmitigated disaster by the contemporary English (205). William the Conqueror is said to have stated in his deathbed confession: "I have persecuted the natives of England beyond all reason" (227). The very nickname, Domesday, given to the Book of Winchester, was provided by the English, not the French. The result at Cranham of this invasion, as elsewhere, was the dispossession of the Saxon Lords at Crauoho and Wokydon Episcopi, and their replacement by a French bishop (see Chapter 2 and Chapter 3). The Lord-peasant relationship was probably converted from Anglo-Saxon symbiosis to Norman exploitation. The subsequent misbehaviour of the Bishop of Bayeux led, in our obscure corner of the kingdom, to a common owner for the two Domesday manors, defining the shape and size of the parish. It should be noted, however, that Cranham was off the main paths of Norman despoliation, and saw little decline in the worth of its manors between the reigns of Edward the Confessor and William the Conqueror.

The second important war for our parish was the English Civil War. The principal affect was at the Rectory, where the benefice changed hands often, and probably confusingly for the peasants in the congregation. Puritans were installed, and the internal furniture of the church was re-arranged. One Rector was probably not properly appointed. With the restoration, another Rector, in his turn, was once again ejected for non- conformity.

The First World War changed all of England forever. It catalysed many inventions, and was the genesis of socialism. The process of re-orienting England from her imperial past was begun. The importance of European affairs was appreciated by the whole population for the first time. At Cranham, the local political scene shifted and women got the vote for the first time.

The fourth important war in our parish history was, of course, the Second World War. It was, through tragedy, again a tremendous catalyst. The dissatisfaction of the people for a standard of living that they had fought to defend has been a principal stimulus to our modern way of living. Lest we forget, the ordinary people of Germany, as well as the Netherlanders, French, Belgians and Polish, together with the families of innumerable American, Asian and Australasian servicemen, suffered much the same as the people of Cranham. Young people today do not, and perhaps cannot, fathom what that war was all about. Perhaps they are then the most fortunate of all the generations that have lived at Cranham. It could be argued soundly that the modern development of Cranham was born in the destruction of East London.

Table 14. Offensive actions visited on Cranham 1939-45

1940  
April 6 Hurricane forced down in field adjoining Cranham Hall
September 2 HE 16.00 hrs Cranham Park
September 10 HE 02.00 hrs, damaged two cottages on Broadfields Farm
September 17 inc 21.20 hrs, "Park Farm".
September 22 uxb 00.20 hrs, Bird Lane
September 24 2 HE 20.30 hrs; 5 cottages destroyed at "Monks Farm" (see below)
September 26 . HE 21.40 hrs; 400 yards north west of rectory
October 15 HE 20.15 hrs; Moor Lane at present site of Fairholme Gardens
October 16 21.30 hrs, aircraft attack
October 16 HE 22.00 hrs; Moor Lane
October 18 2 HE 02.20 hrs; north east of "Moorings" (Moor Lane)
October 25 3 uxb 21.00 hrs; between "Bury Farm" and St.Mary's Lane
November 16 uxb 19.30 hrs; Broadfields Farm
1941  
January 19 2 HE 23.35 hrs; Broadfields farm
March 19 4 HE 20.58 hrs; St.Mary's Lane, east of Wantz bridge
1944  
June 17 V1 23.35 hrs; St.Mary's Lane
July 9 V1 ; 11 people wounded (3 military); "Jobber's Rest" public house and 60 houses damaged
November 26 V2 17.49 hrs; 500 yards south-south-west of Folkes Farm; 2 casualties, crater 32 feet diameter, 7 feet deep
1945  
January 26 V2 10.50 hrs; rocket exploded in the air near Clay Tye Hill
February 14 V2 03.05 hrs; crater 41 feet diameter x 14 feet deep, 440 yards south of Franks cottages; cottages damaged, rocket from "Voorburg".
March 18 V2 01.30 hrs; rocket exploded in the air in the north of Cranham damaging 6 cottages.
Fatalities  
Robert and Fanny Mortlock of "Victoria Row", St. Mary's Lane (at the junction of Pike Lane) September 24, 1940. "Monks Farm" may, at that time, have been the name used for the small farm house with barn, at the extreme southern end of Pike Lane.  
Table notes
Drawn from Watts (278).
Abbreviations HE: high explosive bomb
uxb: unexploded bomb
inc: incendiary bomb
V1: pilotless explosive aircraft
V2: rocket
Most of these records came from the local press, and it must be remembered that censorship and security concerns may obscure the accuracy of details

INTEREST IN LOCAL HISTORY AT CRANHAM

Interest in the history of the parish cannot be described as avid amongst its inhabitants ! Here are the highlights.

Ludbey started it. In 1835, his registers contained several notes on the history of the parish, many of which have been used in earlier chapters (104), but these notes were clearly not intended for publication. Sixty years later, the Parish Council were required in 1894 to purchase a safe for their records. It was not until 1896 that they actually spent 9 for this item. This does not indicate a keen sense of posterity. It was not until 1956 that Father Sparling first properly tackled the history of the parish, with his famous pamphlet (1).

Cranham was included in all the important histories of Essex, i.e. those by Morant in 1768 (11), Muilman in 1771 (107), Wright in 1834 (173), Coller in 1861, and the Victoria County History of 1978 (where Gladys Ward did Cranham proud; refs. 8, 12). There is another brief account of Cranham in a pamphlet of 1964. The average Cranham resident is not familiar with these works today, although most of them are actually in the public library at Upminster. None, however, were written by residents of the parish.

For the genealogist, the parish registers are intact from 1558, although rarely consulted (30, 81, 99, 100). A gazetteer of All Saints' churchyard has been prepared (204), and deposited with the Rector; some 247 people were found in the churchyard, and their graves were mapped. There are memorials to another 11 people inside the church.

UNANSWERED QUESTIONS

There are many unanswered questions about the history of Cranham. The place-name would suggest that Upminster was an early Saxon mission, and Cranham could have been the first extension from that mission. But why, then, should the parish church be less than two miles as the crow (crau) flies to the ridge (oho), east of the mission ? Why do the spires of Cranham, Hornchurch and Upminster stand in line ? Is the site of the church, on its ridge, even earlier, previously pagan ?

As for agriculture, the question of whether this fertile area was cleared in Roman times or before, still awaits a definitive answer proven by archaeology. If not in Roman times, then precisely when was the land cleared ? How were the traditional, communal, Saxon fields enclosed, or avoided, in this area ? What, truly, was the relationship between Lord and peasant down through the centuries ? And the big question: is there any chance of demonstrating continuous occupation of Cranham since the Iron Age ?

Cranham's residents' lifestyles are mostly unknown. Did they really care about the chopping and changing of Rectors during the Civil War ? Indeed, did they care about that war at all ?

And then individuals. What was Oglethorpe really like when he was living at Cranham ? Why was Miss Boyd so interested in the welfare of the parish, even after moving away for many years ? Who really caused all the trouble with the May Day Society ?

GHOSTS

The parish seems to have been fairly free of these imaginary worries, unlike many other parts of Essex where witches and ghosts have apparently thrived. On December 23, 1979, the "Sunday Express" published a report of a ghost seen walking along St.Mary's Lane between Wantz bridge and the Coopers' and Coburn School. This "Ghostly Monk of St.Mary's", as the headline read, had been seen by several residents, including a certain Mr.Richard Sage (185).

This sighting was in the lowest part of the parish. It is most likely that a small cloud of mist was seen in poor light. Very often, fog is seen in this area, when it is absent elsewhere in the parish. Both the author and his father have seen, on several occasions, these meterological, not metaphysical, effects.

FINAL COMMENTS BY THE AUTHOR

Hoskins (193) has distinguished local history from antiquarianism in terms of content. A mere collection of information is the latter. The former requires context and interpretation. This book may well be antiquarianism, a risk that the amateur parish historian always runs. But an obscure parish is unlikely to claim the attention of the professional, this is the most thorough and integrated account, to date, of Cranham, and some new facts and interpretations have been provided. Books of this type are never finished; even during the Web publication of this one, new information has come to light, requiring us to revise chapters during the actual construction of the site. The author will always be glad to learn about his defects, and always to gather more information about the history of Cranham.